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American Empress godmother returns for season start

From left, Alex Strogen and Jack Burkman, Port of Vancouver USA; Mike McLeod, Hilton Vancouver; Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Culinary Ambassador Regina Charboneau, American Empress godmother Claudette Waggoner, Christie Rust, Hilton Vancouver; Cliff Myers, Visit Vancouver WA. They stand before a portrait of the Waggoners from when Claudette named American Empress in 2014
American Empress godmother Claudette Waggoner welcomed regional leaders onboard for the paddlewheeler's Pacific Northwest season kickoff.

Waggoner, wife of American Queen Voyages Founder and Chairman John Waggoner, hosted Vancouver (Washington) Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Visit Vancouver WA President and CEO Cliff Meyers, hospitality industry and port leaders before an evening sail-away.

Named the boat in 2014

'I was honored to christen the American Empress eight years ago and since that time it has been inspiring to watch the American Empress officers and crew introduce thousands to this magnificent region,' Claudette Waggoner said.

She related how her husband had planned a one-riverboat line but was approached to buy American Empress shortly after the challenging start-up of American Queen.

Murderous thoughts but a happy ending

'He told people he thought I might kill him in his sleep if he bought another boat so soon. Well, I could never do that — but he knew I wouldn’t be happy,' she continued. 'My John pulled it off, leading a great team, and now we will have seven vessels sailing the rivers, lakes and oceans and even Alaska expedition experiences.'

She added it's a special year for American Queen Voyages as the company celebrates its 10th anniversary and thanked the city of Vancouver for the 'ongoing partnership and warm hospitality.'

For her part, McEnerny-Ogle said: 'The American Empress continues to be an important economic driver for our region and we look forward to her many guests visiting our community again and again.'

Culinary Ambassador Regina Charboneau

The current cruise features American Queen Voyages' Culinary Ambassador Regina Charboneau as a special guest to showcase the cuisine and culinary history of the Pacific Northwest. Waggoner and Charboneau hosted a tour and luncheon of cauliflower carrot soup, duck breast and poached pear with Willamette Valley pinot noir.

Waggoner presented Mayor McEnerny-Ogle with a bottle of Old Forrester bourbon, the same that was presented to guests at the American Countess christening in New Orleans in March a year ago. And Charboneau presented her cookbook, 'Mississippi Currents,' to the mayor.

40 sailings scheduled

Vancouver, situated across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, serves as a homeport for American Empress, with 40 sailings scheduled through mid-December. The vessel operates nine-day, one-way itineraries between Vancouver and Clarkston (for Spokane), Washington, along with seven-day round-trips from Vancouver.

Stops are Astoria and The Dalles in Oregon and Stevenson and Richland in Washington. The trips include a pre-cruise hotel night and guided tours in every port.