Floating Palaces

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It’s a hotel and restaurant permanently moored at the Old Sacramento Riverfront now, but eighty years ago the Delta King and its twin Delta Queen plied the Sacramento River between San Francisco and Sacramento, with excursions to Stockton on the San Joaquin River. When they were built, both ships were the most lavishly appointed and expensive sternwheeler passenger boats ever commissioned. Fabricated in Scotland, they were assembled in Stockton in 1927 and began regular service, replacing the steamers Fort Sutter and Capital City. Both made their last regular runs in 1940, driven out of service by a new highway linking Sacramento and San Francisco. For a year the Delta King was a Navy receiving ship in San Francisco for reservists—then Pearl Harbor rushed both steamers into service as emergency hospital transports. In subsequent years the Delta King provided housing for Aluminum Company of Canada workers until 1959, when it was purchased by a Stockton entrepreneur who became enmeshed in legal battles over its ownership. The ship starred as a Mississippi riverboat in the 1959 MGM film The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. After many more not-so-thrilling adventures that damaged the vessel, the Delta King was finally restored in 1985 and opened in 1989 as a historic floating palace where thousands dine, enjoy theatrical presentations, or exchange wedding vows in style.

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