American Queen Steamboat Company

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American Queen Steamboat Company fleet

Review of American Queen Steamboat Company

"American Queen Steamboat Company" (AQSC) is a USA river cruise line headquartered in Memphis Tennessee. In 2012, with PS American Queen the company resurrected the overnight Mississippi River cruise operations - a US travel niche that was almost dead since 2008. SInce 2019, AQSC also owns the company Victory Cruise Lines, which fleet is listed at CruiseMapper as part of AQSC's.

AQSC company history

Originally founded under the name "Great American Steamboat Company", in April 2012 this business enterprise started its "American Queen steamboat" operations. Since then, the company is branded as "American Queen Steamboat Company". The brand is affiliated with the corporation "HMS Global Maritime Inc" - Florida (Fort Lauderdale based) company managing its marine operations.

American Queen Steamboat Company logo

Currently, the American Steamboat company is led by Ted Sykes. He previously worked in leadership and executive roles at Viking Cruises, Vantage, Grand Circle Travel, and Saga Cruises. This genuine USA cruise company employs resident experts who narrate the history of all towns visited along the itinerary routes. Onboard bicycles are also at hand, allowing passengers to enjoy biking along the river and through ports the riverboats call at.

All AQSC ships are stern paddlewheel steamers, decked out in Victorian elegance. Their interior decorations feature rich upholstery, ornate chandeliers, brass, and polished wood. The riverboats offer modern amenities, such as Wi-Fi in all public spaces, gourmet cuisine, tickets price-inclusive tours and excursions ashore. Still, they aim to evoke the "old timer's" memories of the 19th century's paddlewheel steamships. Each of the riverboats is powered by an original design steam plant. The steam engine drives a stern paddle-wheel to propel the ship through water.

New ships

In September 2016, the company announced a fleet expansion with one newbuild - American Duchess, scheduled for launch in July 2017. However, due to Mississippi's unseasonably high water levels, the launch was pushed back 6 weeks to August 13 (christening ceremony). The inaugural cruise was on August 14, with prices starting from USD 1500 pp (double-occupancy Interior Suite rates).

American Duchess cruise ship

For the new all-suite ship was used the hull of a former casino ship ("Isle of Capri") homeported in Bettendorf (Iowa USA). The casino boat was retrofitted for premium cruises on Mississippi River and its tributaries. The new riverboat became USA's first newbuild paddle wheeler. The vessel has capacity 166 passengers and features the largest US river cruise industry's suites (sized up to 550 ft2 / 51 m2). The ship also features the river travel industry's ever first Loft Suites (2-level staterooms).

The American Duchess has traditional Mississippi paddle wheeler ship design. Boat's itinerary program offers overnight port stays and shorter roundtrips from homeports Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Nashville TN and New Orleans, and also (for the first time) from Chicago (Ottawa, Illinois).

In 2018 was acquired the casino boat Kanesville Queen - previously operated by "Harrahs Council Bluffs Casino and Hotel" in Council Bluffs (Iowa USA). The vessel (renamed American Countess) is scheduled to enter service in 2019, following drydock lengthening at Gulf Island Shipyard (Houma, Louisiana).

American Countess cruise ship

Ship stretching included cutting the existing hull in two and adding a 60 ft (18 m) long prefabricated midship section. Nearly 150 workers are currently involved in this project.

AQSC cruise deals

Operated with all-inclusive cruise packages, AQSC deals are inclusive of:

  • all shore excursions ("Steamcoach Tours" by luxury buses)
  • 1-night pre-cruise hotel package
  • soft drinks and bottled water (offered throughout the voyage)
  • wines and beers (offered at dinner only)
  • 24-hour room service (menu has standard breakfasts fare, plus sandwiches, burgers, macaroni and cheese, fresh salmon, desserts)
  • Wi-Fi Internet
  • Pilot House tour (of the ship's Navigation Bridge).
  • Smoking inside the cabin and on the balcony is forbidden. The only smoking-allowed area on the ship is the sun deck.

"Commodore Services" is the company's set of exclusive services reserved for cruise ship passengers booking categories LFS-Loft and OS-Owner suites. The list of bonus perks (price-inclusive / complimentary privileges) includes:

  • gifts (upon arrival) - fruit basket and a bottle of wine
  • suite tour (upon arrival)
  • priority boarding and dining arrangements
  • reserved balcony seating in "The Auditorium" (boat's theater/show lounge), with a personal escort to the reserved seats
  • private reception party with the ship's Captain and Senior Officers
  • personal River Butler
  • unpacking, hanging the clothes in the closet, packing, laundry, pressing service, shoeshine (conditioning)
  • in-cabin dining - Afternoon Tea service, Breakfast, and Dinner service (on the suite's balcony, upon request), pre-dinner canapes, post-dinner sweets).

Victory Cruise Lines

In mid-November 2018, AQSC announced an agreement to acquire the brand "Victory Cruise Line" and its two chartered (Sunstone Ships-owned) vessels Victory I (2001-built) and Victory II (2004-built). To the AQSC fleet was also added the Ocean Victory (2021) - Sunstone-owned newbuild vessel to be operated under charter. All the 3 ships are in a separate fleet - under the "Victory Cruise Lines" brand.

Transaction terms were not disclosed. The announcement was officially made by company's CEO John Waggoner. The acquisition deal was closed in mid-January 2019.

For season 2019 (May through October), Victory Cruise Line scheduled 10-day Great Lakes cruises operated with all-inclusive deals. Victory 1 ship was homeported in Montreal and Detroit MI, with route ports Quebec City, Kingston, Toronto (with crossing Welland Canal between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie), Port Colborne (gateway to Niagara Falls) and Cleveland. Victory 2 ship was homeported in Toronto and Chicago, with route ports Port Colborne, Cleveland, Detroit, Lake Huron (scenic cruising), Little Current (Manitoulin Island), Soo Locks (connecting Lake Superior with Great Lakes). Sault Ste Marie, Mackinac Island, Lake Michigan.

Itinerary of American Queen Steamboat Company

Memphis TN is an important homeport for the line. Its most famous riverboat American Queen docks there regularly - at the Beale Street Landing city attraction. In April 2014, a second riverboat American Empress joined the fleet after a major refurbishment. The line's second ship formerly sailed under the name "Empress of the North" - another famous USA steamboat ship.

The American Steamboat line owns and operates only three (for now) paddle wheeler riverboats sailing on some of the biggest rivers in the USA:

American Queen Steamboat Company invites travelers to enjoy dramatic landscapes that have long inspired writers, artists and steamboat guests on one of their famed sailings along the Ohio, Tennessee, Columbia, Cumberland, Snake and Mississippi rivers. All river cruises aboard the three iconic American paddlewheel riverboats of the company include luxurious accommodations, top-notch service, and authentic connection to America’s geography, history, culture, music, and cuisine.

Selected itineraries aboard American Duchess, American Empress and American Queen throughout 2019 season include:

  • Antebellum South from New Orleans to Memphis aboard American Queen (February 17-25 and June 9-17) and American Duchess (June 2-10, 16-24 and June 30-July 8)
  • Jewels of the Lower Mississippi from Memphis to New Orleans aboard American Queen (February 24-March 4, June 2-10 and 16-24) and American Duchess (June 9-17 and June 23-July 1)
  • Authentic America on the Mighty Mississippi from New Orleans to Red Wing MN aboard American Queen (June 23-July 15)
  • Welcome to the Magnificent Pacific Northwest roundtrip from Vancouver WA (Portland) aboard American Empress (March 24-April 1)
  • Pacific Northwest Splendor from Vancouver WA (Portland) and Clarkston WA aboard American Empress (March 31-April 8).

All journeys include one-night pre-cruise hotel stay, hop-on-hop-off shore trips in all ports of call, complimentary beer and wine with dinner as well as a host of other amenities.

In January 2019, Victory Cruise Lines highlighted the line’s first couple of itineraries since joining American Queen Steamboat Company. The sailings onboard the 202-passenger MS Victory I and MS Victory II on all 5 Great Lakes and the Canadian Maritimes are an alternative to ocean cruising. The cruise line begins its upcoming season in May 2019 with a 10-day voyage onboard MS Victory I between Toronto and Chicago and a 10-day cruise on MS Victory II between Montreal and Detroit MI.

MS Victory I and MS Victory II itineraries include:

  • Great Lakes Grand Discovery on MS Victory I (May 13, 22, 31; Jun 9, 27; Aug 11, 20, 29; Oct 4, 13) MS Victory I sets sail on the Georgian Bay. Passengers can admire the beauty of Niagara Falls and take in the vistas of the Southern Canadian Coast. Voyages embark or disembark in Toronto with visits to Port Colborne, Cleveland, Detroit, Sault Saint Marie, Little Current, and Mackinac Island, concluding in Chicago.
  • French Canada and Great Lakes on MS Victory II (May 28; Jun 6; Jul 12, 21, 30; Aug 8, 17, 26; Oct 10) MS Victory II showcases the French-Canadian countryside and the St. Lawrence River onto Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Passengers cruise the Thousand Islands corridor, tour the preserved Gothic cathedrals of Kingston and explore the historical monuments of the region. MS Victory II embark, disembark and overnight in Montreal with visits to Quebec City, Kingston, Toronto, Port Weller/Niagara Falls, Cleveland and Detroit.

American Queen Steamboat Company's spring 2019 itineraries invite guests to enjoy the springtime aboard one of its 3 paddle-wheelers: American Duchess, American Empress, and American Queen. Travelers have the chance to experience the history-rich waterways and unique landscapes as well as to participate in distinctive shore trips that blend unique scenery with the culture and history of each destination.

Along the Lower Mississippi, American Duchess and American Queen guests can explore the history of the region with battlefield and plantation tours amidst century-old oak trees and acres of sugar cane plantations and cotton fields. Highlights include visits to Garden District in New Orleans, Nottoway Plantation, Graceland Mansion in Memphis and Angola Penitentiary in Saint Francisville.

Onboard American Empress, the magnificence of Snake and Columbia Rivers transport passengers to the days of Lewis and Clark. Shore trips bring the history of the region to life with visits to The Riverwalk overlooking Columbia River, Multnomah Falls, Bonneville Dam, and Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland.

A selection of spring 2019 itineraries onboard American Duchess, American Empress, and American Queen includes:

  • Jewels of the Lower Mississippi from Memphis to New Orleans aboard American Queen (March 10-18, June 16-24) and American Duchess (June 9-17, June 23-July 1).
  • A Taste of the True South from New Orleans to Memphis aboard American Queen (March 31-April 8, May 26-June 3, June 9-17) and American Duchess (March 24-April 1, June 2-10, June 16-24).
  • Pacific Northwest Splendor from Vancouver WA (Portland) to Clarkston WA aboard American Empress (April 14-22, April 28-May 6, May 12-20, May 26-June 3, June 9-17).

Fares on Lower Mississippi River, Columbia and Snake River itineraries begin at US$2,199 per person. All voyages include a 1-night, pre-cruise hotel stay, hop-on-hop-off shore trips in all ports, beer and wine with dinner as well as a host of other amenities.

The following American Queen Steamboat Company cruise itinerary map shows the line's destinations and all itineraries as rivers and ports of call. The company's main departure ports are with capital letters and bolded. These are Minneapolis-St Paul (Minnesota), Chicago (Illinois), St Louis (Missouri), Nashville (Tennessee), Memphis (Tennessee) and New Orleans (Louisiana).

American Queen Steamboat Company cruise itineraries map

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