American Cruise Lines

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Review of American Cruise Lines

ACL-American Cruise Lines Inc ( is a USA-based travel company founded in 1991 and headquartered in Guilford, Connecticut. Currently ranked USA's largest river cruise company, ACL operates traditional stern-paddlewheel riverboats and also several small-sized oceangoing ships. ACL ships cruise mainly in the USA, including Alaska, West and East Coast, the USA's biggest rivers (Mississippi, Columbia, Snake, Hudson), also in Florida (St George River).

The company's current President and CEO is Charles B. Robertson who succeeded ACL's founder Charles A. Robertson (1948-2020).

  • In August 2021, ACL announced a major refurbishment project for its entire paddlewheeler fleet. The redesigned boats will be renamed "American Splendor" (fka America), "American Heritage" (Queen of the Mississippi) and "American West" (Queen of the West), with only American Pride retaining its name.
  • The refurb project is via partnership with the Miami-based Studio DADO (interior design firm) which was commissioned for the American Melody's interior spaces.
  • By this project (planned for completion by March 2022), the ACL paddlewheelrs' staterooms, bars and lounges, dining rooms and public areas will be completely redesigned, with new color schemes, artworks, furniture, carpets, textiles, accessories.

Since January 2022, all ACL deals with added domestic flights (between airports in the USA, which includes all the company's 19 ports in 16 US states) are with flat-rate priced airfares (fixed/not subject to future changes). ACL river voyages' prices are inclusive of a pre-cruise hotel overnight.

Since December 2022, all ACL deals are inclusive of port charges and fees (commissionable for travel agents).

ACL's main competitors are American Queen Voyages (fka AQSC) and Viking Cruises USA.

American Cruise Lines logo

One of the most prominent features of all ACL ships is that they are USA-flagged, which means that the company hires only American citizens as hotel staff and crews, and pays taxes in the USA (on all cruise deals).

ACL deals are not so cheap, and consist of:

  • larger-than-average staterooms (with the first balcony cabins in the US coastal cruise shipping business)
  • spacious public rooms (bars and lounges)
  • gourmet cuisine, highly personalized service
  • hassle-free experiences, complimentary drinks before dinner, intimate, relaxing and friendly atmosphere
  • amazingly charming itineraries sailing the inland waterways and stopping at ports every day (these are smaller ports inaccessible to larger vessels)
  • an evening enrichment program by professional onboard lecturers
  • the cruise ship "Queen of the Mississippi" debuted in 2012 as the largest of all ACL ships. Her sister ship was recently launched (March 2015) under the name "American Eagle".

All ACL ships are USA-built/refurbished, by the shipbuilder Chesapeake Shipbuilding Corporation (Salisbury, Maryland).

Next infographic of the Queen of the Mississippi (now American Heritage) shows what is what and where on this unique riverboat.

American Pride cruise ship (Queen of the Mississippi) infographic

In mid-February, 2020, ACL signed with Vicksburg MS a 20-year deal for preferential berthing rights and ACL investments for upgrading the riverfront docking facility. By the deal, ACL pays the city per-passenger fees and receives priority mooring along the waterfront. ACL also provides shuttle bus services for its customers for land transportation to nearby attractions and popular downtown businesses.

In January 2023 ACL announced the fleetwide introduction of high-speed (Starlink-provided) satellite internet and Wi-Fi services. Starlink's LEO satellites (positioned at low Earth orbit) provide stable and fast internet connections to moving marine vessels and ACL beta-tested the service in 2022. As a promo, ACL offered the Starlink Wi-Fi and the shipboard Room Service complimentary during the entire 2023.

New ships

In late-October 2015, ACL announced the start of the construction of a new coastal cruiser (by Chesapeake Shipbuilding/Salisbury, Maryland USA), with scheduled delivery in 2017-Q1. The vessel (American Constellation) was followed by the sistership American Constitution (2018).

American Cruise Lines new ship design (Modern Riverboat)

These boats have passenger capacity 170 and are sized slightly larger compared to ACL's old coastal cruisers. They are fully-stabilized (active wing stabilizers by Rolls-Royce Marine) and have the USA river cruising industry's largest and most luxurious staterooms. All cabins are with marble-tiled bathrooms and floor-ceiling glass doors opening to step-out balconies.

American Cruise Lines new ship infographic (Modern Riverboats)

Traditionally for large-sized US riverboats, American Song has a fore-located boarding ramp (bow-location on Deck 1) that allows passengers to go ashore at any place along the ship's cruise itinerary route. The ramp has an innovative design being constructed as a retractable gangway (passenger bridge). The technology is often implemented on some of the largest ferries and features an opening bow door.

American Cruise Lines new ship design (Modern Riverboat)

In November 2016 ACL announced the start of the construction on a 3rd (larger / new-class "Modern Riverboat") vessel with capacity 195 passengers. In late-February 2017 were announced plans for a fleet of 5 newbuilds.

  • The first vessel from the new "Modern Riverboat" series was launched in 2018 (American Song). Followed the sisterships American Harmony (2019), American Jazz (2020), American Melody (2021), American Symphony (2022), American Serenade (2023).
  • In mid-June 2021 ACL signed with Chesapeake Shipbuilding the contract for constructing two more units (5th and 6th) of the "modern riverboat" series. Both vessels (yet to be named) are planned for inauguration in 2022 growing the company's fleet to 15 (5x small, 4x paddle-wheelers, 6x modern riverboats).

In January 2022 ACL announced a plan to grow its fleet to 25+ vessels by adding 12 units of a new class (Project Blue), each with max passenger capacity 109 (plus 50 crew), length 241 ft (74 m), beam/width 56 ft (17 m), 56 staterooms (~85% balconied). ACL's Coastal Cats/catamarans are currently planned for launch/inauguration two units per year - in 2023 (Eagle, Glory), 2024 (Liberty, TBN), 2025, 2026, 2027, and 2028.

American Cruise Lines catamaran ship (Project Blue)

Next video reviews the best features of ACL's 2021-2022-built Modern Riverboats (Melody, Symphony, Serenade).


USA river cruise excursions for free

Any American Cruise Line's guest booking USA river cruises on Mississippi or Columbia rivers will get absolutely free shore excursions. This amazing offer is a year-round deal. These free shore tours are offered in each port of call. The tours' list includes:

  • "Battle of Vicksburg" (in Vicksburg, Mississippi)
  • "Oak Valley Plantation" (in Oak Alley, Louisiana)
  • "Mark Twain Boyhood Home-Museum" (in Hannibal, Missouri)
  • "Mount St Helens" (in Rainier, Washington)
  • "Winery" (in Richland, Washington).

The next YouTube video is the company's official release about the signature "Mississippi River Paddlewheeler" cruising experience.


IN January 2020, ACL signed a 5-year preferential berthing agreement with Port NOLA (New Orleans) for Thalia Street Wharf/riverboat dock. By this deal, ACL also received 2 (optional) 5-year renewals. Preferential homeporting is for at least 50 voyages (guaranteed departures) annually. For 2020, ACL scheduled 68 calls at Port NOLA.

(Coronavirus crisis) passenger shipping pause 2020-2021

Due to the Coronavirus crisis, ACL suspended its entire fleet's passenger shipping operations (all vessels) canceling all voyages with pre-scheduled departures in the period March 14, 2020, through May 2021.

Fleet's operations resumed on the following dates (by ship) in 2021.

  • MS Independence (May 1 from Charleston SC)
  • MS America (May 4 from New Orleans)
  • Queen of the Mississippi (May 1 from Memphis TN)
  • Queen of the West (May 15 from Clarkston WA)
  • American Star (May 8 from Charleston SC)
  • American Song (May 9 from Clarkston MI)
  • American Pride (May 1 from Portland OR)
  • American Constellation (May 7/Alaska from Seattle WA)
  • American Constitution (May 10 from Boston)
  • American Spirit (May 8/Alaska from Seattle WA)
  • American Harmony (May 1 from New Orleans)
  • American Jazz (May 2 from New Orleans)
  • American Melody (Aug 27/Maiden Voyage from New Orleans)

Note: Under CERTS (Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act), in August 2021 the company received USD 42,7 million (CAD 58,83M / AUD 58,3M / EUR 36,2M) grant from the USA's government. The CERTS provides grants to eligible (USA-based and all American-crewed) passenger transportation companies (motorcoach, school bus, shipping, pilotage) that have experienced 25% or more annual revenue losses due to the COVID crisis.

ACL boats initially operated with reduced (75% of the max) passenger capacity. All affected bookings were fully refunded (100% monetary refund). With rebooking is offered 125% FCC (Future Cruise Credit) based on the fares paid for the canceled cruises. The FCC must be used before December 31, 2021.

Itinerary of American Cruise Lines

ACL-American Cruise Lines itinerary program includes the USA's Eastern and Western seaboards. ACL also offers Alaskan cruises during summer as well as the USA's river cruise regions Mississippi-Ohio (northbound and southbound itineraries) and Columbia-Snake (eastbound and westbound itineraries).

As of 2022, ACL ships sail 35+ USA-only itineraries visiting ports in 31 US states.

Follows the list of all American Cruise Lines ships, in brackets (Year Built/Passenger Capacity/Cabins_total)

ACL's "Project Blue" catamarans are a separate fleet of 12x newbuilds scheduled for launches in 2023 (American Eagle, American Glory), 2024 (American Liberty, TBN), 2025 (TBN), 2026 (TBN), 2027 (TBN), 2028 (TBN). Next are listed some of the East Coast USA itineraries planned for these cute boats.

  • 8-day / 7-night "Chesapeake Bay Cruise" is a roundtrip from Baltimore MD. Call ports include Yorktown-Williamsburg VA, Crisfield MD (Tangier VA), Cambridge MD (Oxford MD), St Michaels MD, Annapolis MD.
  • 8-day / 7-night "The Cape Codder Cruise" (visiting 8 ports) is roundtrip from Boston MA/Charlestown. Call ports include Glouchester MA, Plymouth MA, Martha's Vinyard Island MA, Falmouth MA, New Bedford MA, Provincetown MA.
  • 8-day / 7-night "Maine Coast and Harbors Cruise" (visiting 8 ports) is a roundtrip from Portland ME. Call ports include Bar Harbor ME, Belfast ME, Camden ME, Rockland ME, Boothbay Harbor ME, Bath ME.
  • 8-day / 7-night "Historic South and Golden Isles Cruise" (visiting 8 ports) is a one-way itinerary operated between homeports Charleston SC and Jacksonville FL (Amelia Island). Call ports include Charleston SC, Beaufort SC, Hilton Head Island SC, Savannah GA, Jekyll Island and St Simons Island (GA), Amelia Island FL (overnight).
  • 15-day / 14-night "East Coast Inland Passage Cruise" (visiting 15 ports) is a one-way itinerary operated between homeports Baltimore MD and Jacksonville/Amelia Island FL. Call ports include Baltimore MD, St Michaels MD, Norfolk VA, Kitty Hawk NC, Beaufort NC (Morehead City NC), Wilmington NC, Charleston SC, Beaufort SC, Hilton Head SC, Savannah GA, St Simons Island GA, Jekyll Island GA, Amelia Island FL (Fernandina Beach).

In 2021, ACL introduced 3x new itineraries - "Cape Codder" (New England), "Music Cities" (American music-themed / 8-day between Nashville and Memphis) and "Alaskan Explorers" (11-day Glacier Bay cruise), also 50x new land tours and more pre-cruise hotel packages (Four Season Hotel deals in select USA river ports).

The classic 10-night "Grand Puget Sound Cruise" itinerary visits Washington's San Juan Archipelago.

In 2023, ACL introduced new for the brand ports - San Francisco and New York City (including Sag Harbor on Long Island NY). ACL's catamaran cruises (2023-2024 schedule) added Florida's Key West, St Petersburg, Key Biscayne and Fort Myers Beach/Estero Island.

San Francisco Bay Cruise itinerary (2023-introduced)

ACL's 2023 schedule (ship American Jazz) included the company's first-ever California voyage.

The 7-night/8-day "San Francisco Bay Cruise" itinerary (roundtrip from San Francisco) visits four other Californian ports (Stockton, Sacramento, Napa, Vallejo) and ends with an overnight in San Francisco. Overnight port stays are offered in either Sacramento or Napa. A pre-cruise hotel package (inclusive of San Francisco Four Season Hotel overnight stay) is optional.

ACL's San Francisco Bay Cruise itinerary features scenic cruising in San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay (an evening stop in Vallejo), as well as cruising on the Napa River and San Joaquin River.

The voyage includes passing the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Treasure Island. A guided San Francisco city tour visits Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf. The cruisetour's signature experiences also include NASCAR-style driving (at Stockton 99 Speedway) and visiting a Napa Valley Winery (wine-tasting excursion). A guided Old Sacramento tour visits the underground city, the port, and the California State Railroad Museum.

"Grand New England" itinerary

The new 10-night / 11-day cruise itinerary of the company (named "Grand New England") covers New England destinations, among which are charming islands and coastal towns located within the Northeast.

The itinerary visits the following ports of call:

  • Day 1 (Boston MA)
  • Day 2 (Provincetown MA)
  • Day 3 (Newport RI)
  • Day 4 (Martha's Vineyard MA)
  • Day 5 (Kennebunkport ME)
  • Day 6 (Camden ME)
  • Day 7 (Bar Harbor ME)
  • Day 8 (Rockland ME)
  • Before the Rockland arrival, the cruise ship passes through the 10-km / 6-ml Merchants Row passage.
  • The itinerary is operated by the new ACL ships American Constellation and American Constitution.

"Grand Historic South" itinerary

The 10-night / 11-day "Grand Historic South" cruise itinerary is roundtrip from Charleston SC to destinations along southeast USA's Intracoastal Waterway.

The new itinerary visits the following ports of call:

  • Day 1 (Charleston SC / South Carolina)
  • Day 2 (Wilmington NC / North Carolina)
  • Day 3 (Beaufort NC / North Carolina) - horse-drawn carriage ride tour
  • Days 4 and 5 (Savannah GA / Georgia)
  • Day 6 (Sapelo Island GA / Georgia) - Oyster Roast
  • Day 7 (Jekyll Island GA / Georgia) - "Millionaires Village"
  • Day 8 (Fernandina Beach FL / Florida) - Amelia Island
  • Day 9 (cruising)
  • Day 10 (Beaufort SC / South Carolina)
  • Day 11 (Charleston SC / South Carolina)
  • The itinerary is operated by the new ACL ships American Constellation and American Constitution.

The itinerary route features architecturally significant traditional homes, grand plantations, wildlife, amazing coastal landscapes. Also included are locally inspired cuisine specialties prepared by the ship's master chef.

"American Revolution" itinerary

The 12-day "American Revolution Cruise" itinerary visits some of the most historically significant port cities along the Chesapeake Bay.

  • The itinerary also includes new ports - Washington DC, Chestertown MD, Mount Vernon VA. In Washington DC, passengers can enjoy private tours of any of Smithsonian Museums or a guided tour of the National Mall. In Chestertown MD, they can visit Schooner Sultana (replica of Royal Navy Frigate Sultana / in the British Navy between 1768-1772). At Mount Vernon VA, the cruise company's expert guides offer an exclusive tour through George Washington's Estate.
  • Passengers also travel to the last battlefield of the Revolutionary War in Yorktown and Jamestown's first English settlement.
  • In addition to the ashore enrichment program, the shipboard expert is Dr. Harold Cones (biology professor, emeritus / retired from professional life at Christopher Newport University).
  • The "American Revolution Cruise" itinerary is leaving roundtrip from Baltimore MD. Voyages started in spring 2018 on the new ship American Constitution. Available departure dates in 2018 include Oct 29, and Nov 8.

American Cruise Lines ship tracker

Our American Cruise Lines ship tracker is a function integrated into all review pages. At page-bottom in each page, you'll find a map with the ship's current location (AIS position). All the real-time tracking data is provided by VesselFinder. It's all about convenience - you will find where is your riverboat (ship) cruising today and now along its current itinerary!

Note: You can see the CruiseMapper's list of all river cruise ships and riverboats in the "itinerary" section of our River Cruises hub. All river passenger shipping line companies and their fleets are listed there.

American Cruise Lines related cruise news

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