Godmother Claudette Waggoner and Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood To Lead American Empress Christening

March 13th, 2014

Today the American Queen Steamboat Company announces christening ceremony details for the U.S. riverboat owner and operator’s second vessel. The 223-guest American Empress, the largest riverboat west of the Mississippi, will officially join the fleet with the American Queen on April 5, 2014. Claudette Waggoner, wife of Chairman and CEO John Waggoner, will serve as godmother and officially name the vessel as part of the festivities in downtown Portland, Ore.

Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, longtime leader for the U.S. maritime industry and champion of U.S. river cruising expansion, has been announced as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. Highlights of the festivities will include performances by local musicians, a blessing of the boat by Chinook Tribal elders and a bottle of local wine crashing against the American Empress bow. Additional participating dignitaries include the 13th Coast Guard District Commander Rear Admiral Richard T. Gromlich and Acting Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen.

“It will be a great honor for my wife Kathy and I to join John and Claudette Waggoner, sharing our mutual passion for America’s rivers with the world,” explains former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “I look forward to meeting the inspiring American Empress crew and visiting with community leaders who will soon see the positive impact U.S. river cruising expansion will have on their cities and towns.”

One of only two conservatives in President Obama’s cabinet during his first term, Secretary LaHood quickly became known throughout the federal government as a bipartisan leader and skilled arbiter. In his role as Secretary of Transportation, LaHood led an agency with more than 50,000 employees and a $70 billion budget overseeing air, maritime and surface transportation missions. With a passion for building new transportation infrastructure, Secretary LaHood became a strong advocate for U.S. river cruising, recognizing the impact its growth has on the economy, particularly river towns and cities in America’s heartland. Secretary LaHood will speak on the importance of U.S. river cruising before introducing American Empress Godmother Claudette Waggoner.

“It is a true honor serving as the American Empress godmother and I look forward to sharing this majestic vessel with the world for the first time on April 5, 2014,” shares Waggoner. “As I have listened to guests share their many discoveries aboard the American Queen sailing the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, I can’t help but be excited for them to now explore the Pacific Northwest in American Queen Steamboat Company style.”

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