Friday, April 13, may seem an inauspicious day to relaunch a failed overnight steamboat cruise ship on the Mississippi, but that didn't dampen the spirits of paddlewheel fans. The American Queen was put out of service in 2008 after then-owner the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. went into bankruptcy in 2008. New owners, Great American Steamboat Co., refurbished the 1995 ship to all its Victorian, polished-wood grandeur, and took on its first passengers in New Orleans that Friday for a tour of the southern Mississippi River.

By the time the American Queen appears in St. Paul, on Sept. 21, it won't have been the first to pick up passengers. American Cruise Lines will launch a new paddlewheeler, Queen of the Mississippi, on Aug. 11. That boat will be here on Sept. 8.

Both queens are offering seven-night fall color tours between St. Paul and St. Louis -- with stops in quaint river towns such as Red Wing and Hannibal, Mo. -- this September and October. The American Queen is also offering a three-night cruise that departs and returns to St. Paul this fall. Bookings are tight for all these sailings.

The American Queen carries 436 guests. Onboard will be "riverlorians" and a Mark Twain impersonator, fitting with its Victorian decor. Prices for a seven-night cruise begin at $2,000 for its most basic room, without windows (www.greatamericansteamboat; 1-888-749-5280). On the Queen of the Mississippi, which will hold 140 guests, 85 percent of staterooms will have a private balcony. Prices for a seven-night cruise start at $4,000 (; 1-800-460-4518).

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