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Hurricane Disrupts Delaware North's Mississippi Cruise Line

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – A Buffalo company is feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina. The Delaware North Companies operate three Mississippi River cruise boats that are based in New Orleans.

The Delta Queen Steamboat Company is the nation's oldest, continuously operating cruise line. Its roots date back to 1890. The company was acquired by Delaware North in 2002.

With Hurricane Katrina bearing down on Delta Queen's headquarters on the New Orleans waterfront wharf, Delaware North's Rick Abramson said 16 employees volunteered to travel to Buffalo to keep the cruise line running.

"We have a reservation call center that is fully manned 12 hours a day in New Orleans. Since we are right on the wharf there, we brought 16 employees to Buffalo to man the phones at a temporary reservations center," Abramson said.

But in volunteering to come to Buffalo, Abramson said the employees had to leave family and friends behind. While their immediate families are safe, he said the employees are nonetheless disturbed by the televised scenes of devastation. Before coming to Buffalo to serve as president of Delaware North's Sportservices division, Abramson himself lived in New Orleans and says he, too, is saddened by what he's seen.

"New Orleans is so vulnerable," Abramson said. "It's a classic city with a lot of history. The buildings that have been there for many years may not have been able to handle a storm of this magnitude.

Abramson said they should find out today if there is a building on the wharf in New Orleans to go back to. But he did say the company's three Delta Queen boats are all safe and were well away, touring other parts of the Mississippi when the hurricane hit.