The Delta Queen, the last authentic overnight steamboat, was built in 1927. As common with vessels of her type in the day, she was built with a steel hull (the part of the boat in the water), and a wooden superstructure (the white part above the hull). The finest materials were used in her construction such as clear grain Oak, Teak, and Mahogany to name by skilled craftsman; which is indicated by her continued existence today. The beautiful wood paneling and ornate stained glass and brass fixtures are what make the Delta Queen so unique and special today.
Following a law passed in 1966 known as the Safety At Sea Act, aimed at ocean going vessels, any passenger vessel carrying more than 50 passengers overnight has to be constructed of entirely non-combustible materials. This meant the beautiful wood paneling and construction of the Delta Queen would be non-compliant with the new regulation. Following a grassroots campaign by the Delta Queen’s owners at the time; Congress, realizing the impact this new regulation aimed at ocean going cruise ships had on vessels on the inland rivers, quickly passed an exemption for the Delta Queen which was never more than a few hundred yards from shore.
This exemption was renewed nine times over the next 40 years until it was allowed to expire in November 2008. During the time many safety improvements were made to the Delta Queen including a state of the art fire detection and suppression system, including a sprinkler system with nearly 1200 sprinklers throughout every space on the vessel.
In 2015 the Delta Queen was purchased by her current owners with the intention of obtaining the necessary exemption from Congress and putting the vessel back into overnight passenger service. Plans are in the works to make the vessel safer than she ever has been before with new boilers, generators, upgrades to her current fire protection systems, and specialized firefighting training for the entire crew.
In November 2018 the United States Congress passed the necessary legislation clearing the path for the Delta Queen’s eventual return to service. The owners hope to have her ready for passengers in 2020.