Cascade General completed an intensive five-month conversion project and delivered the 218’ (66m) luxury riverboat Columbia Queen to the Delta Queen Steamboat Company passing the Coast Guard trials on May 22 with flying colors. The vessel arrived at the Portland Shipyard as a bare shell at the end of December, and within days, shipyard crews were working simultaneously on all five decks. New stairways and walls were fitted and hundreds of windows cut on the four passenger decks, etc.
The Columbia Queen was originally built in 1994 for use as a casino with two 700 HP Cummins engines for electrical generation and two 950 HP Cummins for slow-speed propulsion. For its new role as an inland cruise ship, a complete re-configuration of the drive system was specified by naval architects Rodney Lay & Associates of Jacksonville (Florida). They called for a huge increase of propulsion power from 1900 HP to 4600 HP, to enable the ship to maneuver through the eight locks of the Columbia and Snake rivers in high winds and provide a cruising speed of twelve knots.
The existing main engines were removed and the new 1350 HP Cummins fitted. The new main engines were connected to conventional shafts turning 58" diameter four-bladed propellers in tunnels. The new 950 HP auxiliaries were mated to Schottel azimuthing drives with fore and aft propellers, fitted in new transom wells. All the interior structures, including 105 traditional-style cabins, three lounges, central dining room, superbly equipped galley and dining hall were completed and ready for finish work by April. The ship's décor and all furnishings have been carefully selected to create the atmosphere of a 19th century riverboat.
In trials, the ship achieved a speed of 12 knots with all four engines, and was able to cruise under mains only at 10.5 knots. The combination of azimuthing drives and the 350 HP bowthruster produces a high degree of maneuverability. Fully equipped wing steering stations give the captain complete control during docking. Safety features include the Swedish Nittan fire-prevention system, automatic fire doors, and extremely fire-resistant stair towers, a rear-looking remote TV camera, and main deck speakers with "talk back" microphones.