CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The The Cincinnati Post says the fabled stern wheeler Delta Queen will soon be prohibited from plying inland waterways with passengers booked in overnight berths. Her wooden superstructure dates to 1926 and is considered hazardous under modern safety regs and rules. It is not clear yet what the future has in store for this truly historic vessel, but maybe the time has come to launch a campaign that would bring this Queen permanently to Cincinnati, the Ohio River home port whose name is stenciled upon its stern.
In truth, the Delta Queen has sailed out of New Orleans since 1984. Cincinnati Post reporter Greg Paeth says 2008 is the final cruising season for the 285-foot steamboat. The ship is officially a National Historic Landmark. He said nobody knows what is coming after the final season:
"It's unclear whether the Majestic America Line would continue to operate the 'DQ' even if it received a waiver that would extend beyond the end of 2008 -- the 'farewell season.' A spokesman says the company did all that it could before deciding that 2008 would be the final year for overnight cruises on the Queen."
However, the two queens really are made for each other. The Queen City instantly would have a legitimate and unique tourist attraction linked to its heritage as a prominent municipal center with a romantic Twainesque past. Acquiring the stern wheeler makes far more sense than docking a decommissioned U.S. Navy nuclear submarine on the riverfront. That idea has been floated for several years.
Cleveland has a 618-foot Great Lakes freighter tied up on its lakefront. The William G. Mather is a draw and symbolizes the city's enduring link to Lake Erie, the body of water that gave Cleveland life, prosperity and hope that it can remain a key metropolitan center. The freighter is still in the middle of plans to jazz up the lakefront, plans that can trigger debate.
Other cities have their own ships. The Belle of Louisville is a strong component of the Kentucky metropolis's civic identity. And Mobile has a World War II battleship, the USS Alabama, as a reminder of that Gulf seaport's ties to deep water adventures. The steamboat era is a slice of time that really belongs to three American cities -- St. Louis, New Orleans and Cincinnati. If the Queen City can somehow get its hands on the Queen, St. Louis and New Orleans would have to bow before the throne.