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January 28, 2009

Delta Queen to act as floating hotel

For a time, at least, the the historic steamboat Delta Queen is to act as a floating boutique hotel.

Ambassadors International, Inc. has chartered the vessel to Harry Phillips, owner of Chattanooga Water Taxi and Fat Cat Ferry in Chattanooga, Tenn.,

Ambassadors International says Mr. Phillips will act as caretaker for the 174-guest Delta Queen while it continues searching for both a buyer to operate the 82-year old stern wheeler as an overnight cruise vessel and a congressional exemption to allow it to offer overnight cruises despite its wooden superstructure.

Meantime, next month the Delta Queen will depart New Orleans, La., and cruise to Chattanooga where it will moor at Coolidge Park Landing to operate as a historic, boutique hotel, preserved in its current state and managed by Sydney Slome, owner of Chattanooga's StoneFort Inn.

Delta Queen is a registered historic treasure of the Department of the Interior and the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is also a National Historic Landmark and a member of the National Maritime Hall of Fame. The Delta Queen was recently nominated for inclusion on the National Trust for Preservation's 2009 list of America's Most Endangered Historic Places.

"The company is committed to preserving this national landmark. In order to maintain the steamboat's historical significance, provisions of the charter agreement prevent the Delta Queen from being altered," said Diane Moore, president, Ambassadors Cruise Group.

She said that Mr. Phillips had been selected to charter the vessel because of his knowledge of restoring and maintaining historical properties and his maritime experience. Mr. Phillips, a licensed boat captain, has acquired and restored several historically significant homes in East Hartford, Conn., and in Chattanooga. He has also served on the board of directors of Cornerstones, Inc., a non-profit organization committed to historic preservation of downtown Chattanooga properties. He is a former banker, current business owner and real estate investor who has successfully listed two of his Chattanooga downtown buildings on the National Historic Register including the StoneFort Inn, which he restored in 2003.

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