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A Response from Delta Queen Hotel

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    A Response from Delta Queen Hotel


    From Sydney Slome and Harry Phillips, partners in efforts to open the Delta Queen as a hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

    We sincerely believe opening the Delta Queen to the public in Chattanooga is the best opportunity to preserve and share this National Historic Landmark with the public. All steamboat fans wish the Delta Queen could continue to cruise. But in the current reality, Congressional legislation restricts the boat from cruising and its current owner has no plans to operate it as a cruise vessel. Until those factors change, we feel proud to serve as the caretakers of this national treasure.

    We have not received any communication from Vicki Webster or any other members of the Save The Delta Queen campaign. We wish we could have had an opportunity to discuss any concerns before they issued a press release protesting the opening of the Delta Queen as a hotel in Chattanooga.

    We respect Ms. Webster’s passion and desire to see the boat return to cruising, but her press release is filled with several misunderstandings and inaccurate information, that we felt compelled to clarify these details. Following are several quotes from her press release followed by some clarification.

    “The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority have issued a public notice requesting comments on a permit to permanently moor the Delta Queen at Coolidge Park in Chattanooga.”
    The requested permit is not to “permanently moor the Delta Queen” but more accurately to transfer the Delta Queen’s operating permit to a “permanently moored vessel” status. The real difference here is that by agreement with the boat’s owners, the Delta Queen will still be maintained in operating condition and able to return to cruising service at any time. The permit status change simply allows for the completion of ramps, docks, utility connections, etc. and transfers some of the regulatory governance to local entities such as the Chattanooga Health Department, Fire Marshall, etc.

    "If this permit is granted the Delta Queen will be converted into a floating hotel and will never sail our rivers again."
    The statement above is not accurate. By agreement with the boat’s owners, the Delta Queen will still be maintained in operating condition and able to return to cruising service at any time.

    "There is a group that wants to buy the boat and put her back in full operation as the only traditional steamboat carrying overnight passengers on our inland waterways."
    The boat’s owners announced the Delta Queen was for sale since on April 29, 2009. In the past year, no sale has been finalized. The boat may certainly be sold at any time. If so, the Delta Queen Hotel entity has provisions in their contract to cover their startup expenses and they would have 90 days to bring their operation to resolution and relinquish the boat to the new owners.

    "That status was the sole reason she was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989."
    While the Delta Queen’s eight decades of cruising has always made her very special, the National Park Service’s 1989 National Historic Landmark Study includes pages and pages of elements of note about the Delta Queen including her remarkable construction, design, machinery, and her extraordinary career – including service to the U.S. Navy during World War II.

    "Please write to the Corps of Engineers at the address below and urge them to hold a public hearing on this matter. And explain in your own words why it is vital to you and your community that the Delta Queen be allowed to steam along America’s inland waterways as she has done proudly and safely for more than 80 years."
    The Corp of Engineers has no authority to grant the Delta Queen permission to cruise. This is a matter that must be resolve by the United States Congress. The permit currently under consideration would simply allow the Delta Queen to be docked in Chattanooga, open to the public and preserved. The Delta Queen Hotel operators and many steamboat supporters have expressed gratitude for this opportunity rather than see the boat locked up, forgotten, and fall to ruin.

    "If the Delta Queen is permanently moored, her steam engines will never run again. Her paddlewheel will never turn. Her whistle will never blow. Her calliope will never play."
    The statement above is not accurate. By agreement with the boat’s owners, the Delta Queen will still be maintained in operating condition and able to return to cruising service at any time. Also, steam will be generated onboard enabling guests and visitors to enjoy the sound of the whistle and calliope daily.

    "In order to achieve even marginal success with their hotel venture beyond the initial novelty stage, it is virtually certain that the Queen’s operators will need to make structural changes that at best will destroy the boat’s historic integrity and at worst make it impossible for a future owner to put her back in operation."
    The statement above is not accurate. By agreement with the boat’s owners, there will be no structural changes to the Delta Queen. She will maintained in her current condition and able to return to cruising service at any time.

    We encourage you to share your feelings in support of preserving and keeping the Delta Queen open to the public by sending your letters by May 4, 2009 to:
    US Army Corps of Engineers
    Regulatory Branch
    Attn: J. Ruben Hernandez
    3701 Bell Road
    Nashville, TN 37214-2660

    Just a short notice, to avoid confusion: The group who was sending out that "Save the Delta Queen Release" cited in Sydney's posting is not speaking on behalf of the website.

    You can find that release on Nori Muster's website

    While steamboat people may differ on how to proceed, strongly agrees that we all want to see the Delta Queen kept in working order so that she might go back to the cruise business if the legal conditions improve. is concerned about the Delta Queen's future and would like to see the "permanent" mooring permit issued with additional restraints to make sure there will not be any structural changes to the Delta Queen (especially in case Ambassadors International sells the boat) so she can in fact be easily re-activated as an overnight passenger vessel once she receives a new exemption from Congress.


      Being on the boat

      I am there 5 days a week and I see all the efforts that are being taken to maintain the integrity of the vessel. I just called Roger (Mate) to make sure that we had the proper instructions to drop the stack to paint it. It looks good. The decks are being repainted. We have cleaning people who come on every day and work to keep the carpets vacuumed and the public places clean and spiffy.

      Of course, we don't have 80+ people who know that boat inside and out living on board. But you do have a concerted effort to maintain and care for our beloved Delta Queen. Once again, I want to point out that if this boat were not in Chattanooga, it would be sitting in New Orleans and going to ruin. I love that old boat, and I am grateful that there are people who are willing to invest their time, energy and money into doing something that will protect our boat. Some days it is two steps forward and one step back, but they keep going forward.

      Since I'm working on the boat, maybe I'm persona non grata, so my words are suspect. I guess that bad news and erroneous facts are more interesting than good things. If you have any questions about what is happening on our boat, please feel free to email me at

      I had the best job of my career working on the Delta Queen, and I would love to see that boat moving in the water again as she was designed to do. But, in the meantime, I am grateful that she is being taken care of and watched over. I am also grateful that many people have been able to come on board and tour the boat and learn about her history.

      Current management may be hotel people as opposed to boat people, but that does not mean that they do not care about all the boat is and would love nothing more than to see that boat running the rivers again. That is what we would all like to see.

      I am proud to be watching over the Delta Queen, and for those of you who don't know me, I am NOT afraid to express my opinion, and if I thought that the wrong things were happening on this hotel venture, I would be the first to say so.


        Thanks, Jennifer. One thing we steamboaters sometimes forget is that almost everyone falls under the DELTA QUEEN's spell. That will include those who care for her at Chattanooga.


          Yes, thank you Jennifer. I started a reply and it was way too wordy. So I'll simply say again, thank you.


            And I'll add my thanks for the first hand report from you all. It makes this old heart rest a bit easier. Jennifer, we'd love periodical reports if you ever have time.


              Just thinking about other issues mentioned elsewhere....

              Sewage - we repaired pumps on the flushing systems - and were functioning as designed. For the last couple of weeks, the macerating system outflow is flowing directly into the city sewage.

              Hot water - yep - no hot water yet so I've been staying in a small luxury hotel in downtown Chattanooga owned by Mr. Slome called the Stone Fort Inn
              It's been such a sacrifice... private balcony, jacuzzi tub, television, big bed with down filled bedding...great free breafast every morning. I have my room on the boat in one of the cabins formerly occupied by one of the pilots, and as the officer on board, when we're ready for occupancy I'll be there.

              I talked to the men doing the work today. One of the boilers is coming on line feeding in from shore. Designed as such so that the head slips in and when the boat returns to water, slips right back out and back into burning Bunker C fuel oil - Installed by those who make their living and are proud to be called Boiler Makers. Not really sure of the mechanics of how it works, but soon we'll have hot water. Running the kitchen systems, dishwasher, hot water for showers, laundry, calliope, whistle, etc. does not require nearly as much steam as running a boat. It has not been an issue of no steam...just less steam and a big challenge that is being met and overcome.

              We have had Coast Guard inspectors, fire and sprinkler companies, fire department, TVA, health inspections, city inspectors, inspectors... from more entities that you think would exist, and they are all fully informed of the progress, as we work towards addressing the concerns of each entity. It is a mass of bureaucracy.

              Thousands of dollars spent on repairing and maintaining systems in this 80 year old boat that may have been put off or postponed by Majestic because of money or the fact that downtime would have affected guest revenue ...not destroying, replacing, tearing out or any other imagined damage.

              Pitman arms are fully functional...that was a crazy rumor with no foundation.

              Remember all those crazy leaks after the rain...we've actually found and repaired a few...

              Well, that's all I can think of at this moment. Had a visit today from some steamboaters... they came on board and visited with Bill, Laura and I and then walked around the boat looking her over. Maybe you'll hear about their vvisit too...


                For those interested, here is the Public Notice from USACE about the permanent moorage:

                One interesting sentence is this: "A debris deflector would be installed on the stern wheel of the vessel."


                  I've clarified that with the powers that be, and the debris collector will be attached to the dock to protect the paddlewheel, not attached to the boat itself.


                    How permanent is "permanent"?

                    There might be a misconception about the meaning of the term "permanent" in the context of this permit. Please read my posting at the Save The Delta Queen .org website about "How permanent is permanently moored?" to understand why permanent doesn't mean "for live time" and why it's absolutely sensemaking to moor the DQ "permanently" in order to operate her as a hotel.


                      Dearest Jennifer
                      Thank you so much. I have spent countless,and I do mean COUNTLESS nights crying my eyes out over our beloved Delta Queen.Many nights reading the posts and crying.. I have been so dissheartened that I did not reply as I felt it didn't matter. But, your wonderful post has eased my pain. You are so very blessed to be on our boat. It comforts me more than you could ever know to know your on her, and obviously just as conserned as we are about her. Please keep us informed, and always remember to never take the fact that you have been blessed by God to live a dream that many would give anything to be living , for granted! The Delta Queen does cast a spell over a person the minute you step onto her. We all love her and hope she is taken care of with love. It does appear that you are doing just that, and for that, I am eternally gratefull. Thank you so very much. In the river at Chattonuga and stationary but cared for, is better than ON the river in New Orleans and left to ruin is , I think we will all agreee, better.
                      Just one more one has mentioned her wonderful bell. Is it still in place? What about the wonderful crystal lamp in the main deck?? I polished it when I was a passanger and love it so. Just a quick hint for anyone cleaning the wonderful crystal lamp and chandalleirs...vinigar and water! Does wonderfull things for it's shine! ( an old hint from the Civil War era that works great !) Please give my beloved boat my love...I know it may sound funny...but, she has a soul. She will remember me. God Bless you for watching out for her. Thank you again.


                        Yes mam, the bell is still solid and ringing true because we occasionally ring it for the tourists on board. One day, I said: when I get the tour on the bow, go ring the bell....I forgot how LOUD it the next time, I made sure that my group was far away from the bow when we rang the bell...

                        The lovely crystal lamp still sits on it's table in the Betty Blake Library.

                        I know how fortunate I am to be on the boat. For those passengers that were on board when I brought my book I created on board, you may know my story. I have 2 books I self-published about my time on the DQ and a 3rd book that is dedicated to the crew. It was a great way to do something to remember my time on board, and to showcase some great photos, and as a labor of love, I just left them to be purchased from the website at the publishing cost.

                        So for those who don't know my story, here is a little snippet of an email I sent back to Pat Carr when we were talking about the Majestic Showboat in Cincinatti and her past with that old boat.

                        Funny, I never thought that my life would revolve around a steamboat. I had open heart surgery 3 years ago to fix an aneurysm that had caused my aortic valve to go bad, and my heart to enlarge. After the surgery, everything went back to normal except that I knew I had been given a second chance at life.

                        I knew I wanted to do something different with my life, but not be away from home for months at a time because of wanting to be a part of my grandchildren's lives. They are 3 and 2 and I wanted to be more than a picture on the wall. All I could remember about riverboats was the Delta Queen, and they interviewed me in February and it was June before I heard from them again. When they offered me the position I wanted as tour manager, even though it started out as gift shop relief too, I was thrilled, but it took a layoff between 2007 and 2008 for me to realize how much she had gotten into my blood.

                        I walked onto the boat in 2008 knowing that it would be a fantastic year, and that I was going to enjoy every moment of that season so that if it was the end, I would know that I got as much joy as possible out of my time on the boat. And it worked, and I did. I met so many wonderful people, on the boat, and in all the little river towns.

                        Now, I'm kind of the "officer" on board as far as the Coast Guard is concerned because of my TWIC and MMD, both mariner ID's and my safety training. I learned so much about that boat and her operation by hanging out with the navigation staff and the engineers, and I do watch over the boat. Plus, I can call those same friends and ask questions too.

                        There is so much to do getting the hotel and resturant open, and I really like being involved from the ground up. In addition to being the historian, and guest relations, and tour guide, I'm also doing the bookkeeping, so it's a great opportunity for me to keep learning.

                        I moved to TN because my daughter's family moved to the Nashville area a couple of years ago. I'll bet I sent out a hundred resumes applying for jobs I did not want, and when the DQ came to Chattanooga, it was like the reason I could not find a job was because I was supposed to be back on that boat, and with my accounting and administrative background, I could fit into the boat in a new way, but also bring my knowledge from my time on the river and my love of the boat. Funny how things work out....


                          Your words gives me goosebumps. Mary Charlton always says the boat draws the people to her that she needs. Obviously you are a case in point.

                          Hope to see you soon.


                            I do think I agree with Mary about that. She is a wonderful old boat with a magic that you can't explain if you have not been with her. I am always amazed to hear the stories from passengers and crew about how the Delta Queen affected their lives.

                            I think about the passengers who were onboard in the forties as children, and then onboard in their golden years (or silver - lol) and it just brings home what the boat is. When I walk on the Orleans Room floor, I feel like I am standing in the heart of the vessel and I can feel the pulse of those who came before me. It does give me goosebumps too. She is alive.