PETERSBURG, ALASKA It will be a shortened 2008 cruise season for one of the more unusual ships that visits Southeast Alaska.
The 360-foot Empress of the North paddlewheel cruise ship is cancelling seven Southeast Alaska sailings in August and September. Majestic America Line, the company that owns the Empress, is also cancelling Columbia and Snake River sailings on the Empress as well as Mississippi River sailings on another of its ships, the American Queen.
The parent company of Majestic America plans to sell the cruise line and says it will not be planning cruises for 2009. Vanessa Bloy, a spokesperson for Majestic America, says several credible parties have expressed interest in acquiring some or all of company’s assets.
The final trip for the Empress will be an August 2 sailing. The company says it’s cancelling the trips because of soft advanced bookings. Bloy would not elaborate or say how many passengers would be affected.
The ship has 112 staterooms and space for 223 passengers. It offers week-long cruises and visits numerous Southeast towns, including Skagway, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell and Juneau. The Empress features a 42-foot stern paddlewheel and a bow ramp for loading passengers and supplies off of a riverbank.
Majestic America says it is contacting guests who have booked cruises and offering half-price sailings on an earlier cruise or a full refund. People with fall sailings on the Empress on the Columbia and Snake Rivers will be rebooked on two of the company’s other ships, the Columbia Queen and Queen of the West.
The Empress of the North was built in 2003. It has had several mishaps in its five years of existence. The shallow draft vessel hit a rock in Icy Strait and missed part of the cruise season undergoing repairs in 2007. It also ran aground in the Columbia River in 2006.