American Queen Voyages fleet
Review of American Queen Voyages
Originally founded under the name "Great American Steamboat Company", in April 2012 this business enterprise started under the brand "American Queen Steamboat Company". For 10 years (between 2011-2021), the company was branded as "American Queen Steamboat Company". In September 2021 was announced changing the brand name to "American Queen Voyages", as well as the brand's logo (adding the trademarked "Discovery Runs Deep" tagline).
In the new brand, the "American Queen Steamboat Company" merged the brand "Victory Cruise Lines" and added two new sea regions (Alaska and Central America/Yucatan Mexico).
Following the rebranding, the company trademarked the following names for its subdivisions (by destination):
- "American Queen Voyages RIVER" (USA)
- "American Queen Voyages EXPEDITION" (Alaska, Central America)
- "American Queen Voyages LAKES & OCEAN" (Great Lakes, Pacific Northwest, Canada, New England)
- Note: "American Queen Steamboat Company" and "Victory Cruise Lines" are still trademarked.
The company's current President is Shawn Bierdz.
AQSC company history
AQV-American Queen Voyages (aqvoyages.com) fka AQSC-American Queen Steamboat Company (americanqueensteamboatcompany.com) is a 2011-founded USA passenger shipping company and cruise travel brand headquartered in New Albany (Indiana USA). In 2018, the company's headquarters were moved to New Albany IN from Memphis Tennessee. AQSC and its brand Victory Cruise Lines are owned by Hornblower Group Inc (1980-founded by Terry MacRae/current CEO) via its subsidiary Hornblower Cruises and Events (1974-founded, San Francisco-headquartered).
Hornblower also owns Niagara Falls Cruises (Niagara Falls Gorge Boat Tour Co, via Hornblower Canada Co), and (via Hornblower USA Co) also owns the ferry companies Alcatraz Cruises (Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay), Statue Cruises (NYC, between Liberty Island and Ellis Island), Hornblower New York Cruises (sightseeing yacht cruises on NYC's East River and Hudson River) and NYC Ferry (on East River, between Lower and Midtown Manhattan). In September 2020, Hornblower acquired SEA-Shore Excursions of America (2011-founded tour company, based in Easton, Pennsylvania, that specializes in exclusive cruise extension land tour packages. SEA was founded to serve exclusively AQSC and Victory Cruise Lines.
The AQV brand is affiliated with the corporation "HMS Global Maritime Inc" - Florida/Fort Lauderdale-based company managing its marine operations.
In 2012, with PS American Queen AQSC resurrected the overnight Mississippi River cruise operations - a US travel service that was almost dead since 2008. SInce 2019, AQSC owns the company Victory Cruise Lines, which fleet is listed at CruiseMapper as part of AQSC. The company's founder and CEO is John Waggoner.
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.
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 Maiden Voyage was on August 14, with prices starting from USD 1500 pp (double-occupancy Interior Suite rates).
For the new riverboat 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 and its tributaries. The riverboat became the USA's first newbuild paddlewheeler. The vessel has capacity 166 passengers and features the American river cruise industry's largest suites (sized up to 550 ft2 / 51 m2) as well as the river travel industry's first-ever Loft Suites (2-level accommodations/on two decks).
American Duchess has a traditional for Mississippi paddle-wheeler design. The itinerary program offers several overnight port stays and shorter roundtrips from homeports Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Nashville, New Orleans and (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) entered service in 2019, following drydock lengthening at Gulf Island Shipyard (Houma, Louisiana).
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).
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). Transaction terms were not disclosed. The acquisition deal was closed in mid-January 2019.
To the AQSC fleet were also added Ocean Victory (2021) and Ocean Discoverer (2023) - both are Sunstone-owned newbuilds operated under charter. All the 4 vessels are in a separate fleet and operated under the "Victory Cruise Lines" brand.
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.
(Coronavirus crisis) passenger shipping pause 2020-2021
Due to the Coronavirus crisis, AQSC suspended its entire fleet's passenger shipping operations (all riverboats) canceling all voyages with pre-scheduled departures in the period March 14, 2020, through May 2021. Fleet operations resumed on the following dates in 2021 (by ship).
- American Duchess (May 3 from Louisville)
- American Empress (May 4 from Clarkston)
- American Countess (May 14 from Memphis)
- American Queen (August 9 from New Orleans)
- (Victory Cruise Lines ships) Victory I and Victory II (May 1)
- Note: Under CERTS (Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act), in August 2021 the company received USD 64 million (CAD 80,67M / AUD 87,31M / EUR 54,23M) 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.
Previously, passenger shipping operations were planned to resume on August 2 (American Empress), August 8 (American Countess, American Queen) and August 16 (American Duchess). All affected bookings received a full refund (100% cash) or 125% refund as FCC (future cruise credit) with rebooking. Any booking may move to another departure date in 2020 and their current cancellation penalty applies to the new departure date. The new booking must be of equal or greater value and the customer is responsible for any increase in fare. AQSC covers flight change fees for all immediately rebooking customers.
The AQSC-owned company "Victory Cruise Lines" also suspended passenger shipping operations. The Victory 1 ship cruises were initially canceled through June 30, 2020 (planned to resume on July 5), while the Victory 2 ship cruises scheduled for 2020 were all canceled. In late-May, AQSC also canceled the entire 2020 program of Victory 1. Victory Cruise Line's suspension was due to Canadia's travel restrictions. All affected bookings received a full monetary refund (100%) or 125% refund as FCC with rebooking.
Itinerary of American Queen Voyages
Note: Since 2021, the brand "American Queen Voyages" combines the old travel brands "American Queen Steamboat Company" (AQSC) and "Victory Cruise Lines" (VCL). Both companies are owned by Hornblower Group Inc (1980-founded) via its subsidiary Hornblower Cruises and Events (1974-founded).
Memphis TN is an important homeport for the AQSC. American Queen (fleet's most famous riverboat) docks there regularly - at the city attraction Beale Street Landing. 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.
AQSC owns and operates only three (for now) paddle wheeler riverboats sailing on some of the biggest rivers in the USA:
- American Duchess (2017-built)
- American Empress (2004-built, 2013-acquired) on Snake and Columbia (Pacific Northwest)
- American Queen (1995-built, 2011-acquired) on Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee.
- American Countess (1995-built, fka "Kanesville Queen"/casino boat, 2018-acquired) on Mississippi River
- The subsidiary Victory Cruise Line operates two pairs of sisterships - Victory 1 and Victory 2, and the chartered from SunStone Ships Inc Ocean Victory (2021) and Ocean Discoverer (2023).
AQSC invites travelers to unique paddlewheel-boat cruises along the USA's rivers Ohio, Tennessee, Columbia, Cumberland, Snake and Mississippi. The brand's all riverboats are traditional-designed American paddlewheel riverboats featuring luxurious staterooms, top-quality service and authentic onboard and ashore experiences themed on geography, history, culture, music, cuisine.
In 2022, for the first time in the AQSC's history, the company scheduled a fleet of 3x paddlewheeler boats (Queen, Duchess, Countess) for a full Ohio River season, with a total of 30x voyages.
The following AQSC cruise itinerary map shows the company'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).
In mid-July 2020, AQSC announced the new 7-day "Heart of the Mississippi Cruise" itinerary following the partnership deal with AHA (American Heart Association, a non-organization in the USA).
- The departure was scheduled for American Countess ship (February 14-21, 2021, Memphis to New Orleans), inclusive of pre-cruise Memphis hotel overnight (Feb 13-14).
- The voyage visits Vicksburg, Natchez, St Francisville and Baton Rouge.
- Shipboard activities include a special fundraiser event (with souvenir T-shirt, medal award, live music at Nottoway Plantation and Resort), special dining (healthy entrees with salmon and chicken), cooking demo, wellness presentation (by an AHA employee), a CPR class (AHA employee-led) and morning stretching exercise (on Sundeck).
- The cruise culminates with a running/walking event at Nottoway Resort. All entry fees ($25 pp) will be donated to AHA's c campaign "Life is Why We Give".
AQSC cruise itineraries 2021
In November 2020, AQSC announced its 2021 Special Edition Voyages. With itineraries featuring exceptional cruise programming aboard American Duchess, American Queen, and the newest paddle-wheeler to join the fleet, American Countess, passengers can experience American traditions while creating memories as they sail along the most historic rivers in the USA.
"The Rhythm of the Rivers" (musically themed itineraries) voyages feature an exclusive concert by Lee Greenwood and other special guests. The "Big Band" itinerary is offered from the cities of Memphis TN and New Orleans (Port NOLA, Louisiana). A Music of the 1950"s-60"s itinerary out of Louisville KY to Memphis transports vacationers back in time to one of the most iconic periods of rock'n roll.
"Culinary and Cocktails" (food and wine-themed voyages) offer sampling of historical and local American dishes and drinks. With various offerings, including the "Bourbon - An American Spirit" or "Cajun Creole Culinary Experience" itinerary, the line offers something for everyone. For those looking for a more traditional culinary experience, the AQSC "American Culinary Experience" offers guests aboard American Countess and American Duchess access to signature dishes from local dining venues as well as special presentations by innovators and experts from the culinary industry. Highlights feature Top Chef alumni and James Beard-nominated chef, Kevin Gillespie, who is expected to join several American Culinary Experience cruises on American Duchess and host Q&A sessions, conduct cooking demonstrations, sign cookbooks provided compliments of AQSC, and work directly with the line"s Director of Culinary Operations, Paul Wayland Smith, in order to include signature dishes on the menu.
"Special Events". In addition to "The Kentucky Derby" itinerary and "Founders Cruise," other special event voyages include the "American River Golf Classic", aboard American Countess featuring a golf package option to play 4 prestigious courses along Lower Mississippi, sailing from Memphis TN to NOLA. The "Autumn on the River" itinerary aboard American Countess, Duchess, and Queen boasts the best in autumn river cruising along the route from Memphis TN to Chattanooga (or the reverse), as well as from Minneapolis to Saint Louis. Previous passengers will benefit from the "Past Guest Reunion Cruise", a special itinerary from Memphis to NOLA aboard American Countess where past passengers can meet old friends as they celebrate the loyalty of the American Queen Voyages' family guests.
Holidays. With cruises for Memorial Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year"s aboard American Duchess, American Queen, and American Countess, passengers can experience Southern traditions while creating memories as they sail along America"s most storied rivers. The July 4th "Star-Spangled Cruise" and "Salute to Veterans" itineraries offer the best way to celebrate. For the fall and winter, passengers can choose to spend their holidays with the AQSC family with a range of itineraries, including a "Thanksgiving" itinerary, "Home for the Holidays" voyage, "Creole Christmas", "Country Christmas", and a "New Year"s Celebration" itinerary.
AQSC customers can help the company's support to the American Heart Association"s "Life Is Why We Give" campaign via a special cruise from Memphis TN to New Orleans in February 2021 with American Duchess. AQSC will donate a portion of the proceeds from its "Heart of the Mississippi" sailing to the special charitable cause, while the crew and guests will be able to raise contributions via participating in a morning 5k walk at Nottoway. The "Community Outreach" itinerary will see passengers working with the communities, visited by AQV boats, to engage with charities and volunteer opportunities as they sail from Louisville to Saint Louis MO aboard American Duchess. AQSC will also offer the "Breast Cancer Awareness" itinerary aboard American Countess from Saint Louis to New Orleans, with booking proceeds going to breast cancer research. The voyage, embarking on October 17, 2021, also features a minimum donation from the cruise line which will donate US$400 for each stateroom booking on American Countess. Along with other program initiatives, AQSC will donate an aggregate guaranteed minimum of US$50,000.
History and Culture. Specially tailored "History and Culture" sailings offer a glimpse back into the beginnings of river cruising. Cruising aboard American Duchess, the "Art of Discovery" voyage offers 9-day itineraries in June-September featuring a call at Paducah, Kentucky - one of 9 UNESCO Creative Cities in the US and only one of 2 recognized for Crafts and Folk Art. "Civil War" d cruises bring passengers on a journey through the most divided moments of the nation, discovering along the way the culture, history, and stories that have survived. American Queen will sail the route from Memphis to New Orleans during April, May, and October, as well as aboard American Duchess and Countess from Memphis TN to Chattanooga in June, October, and November.
In mid-March 2021 AQSC announced 6 music-themed cruises scheduled for season 2021 and the 2017-built paddle-wheeler American Duchess. On all these voyages will be present Melvin Lee Greenwood (1942-born American country music singer-songwriter) to interact with passengers onboard and perform live (at Show Lounge's stage) with the boat's own American Duchess Ensemble.
AQSC's "Greenwood cruise" schedule included the following voyages - "An American Music Festival" (April 4-12/from Memphis TN to Nashville TN-Clarksville TN), "An American Music Festival" (April 11-19/from Nashville-Clarksville to St Louis MO-Alton IL), "An American Music Festival" (June 20-28/from Louisville KY to Nashville-Clarksville TN), "Star-Spangled Spectacular" (June 27-July 5/from Nashville-Clarksville to Louisville KY), "Country Christmas" (December 5-13/from Memphis to Nashville-Clarksville) and "Country Christmas" (December 12-20/from Nashville-Clarksville to Memphis). Prices on the all-inclusive cruises with Lee Greenwood started at USD 2200 (EUR 1845) per person with double occupancy.
AQSC itineraries 2022 Victory Cruise Line
In mid-December 2020, AQSC announced its 2021 itinerary program that includes both brands - AQSC and Victory Cruise Lines. For both companies are offered Early Booking discounts with up to USD 1200 pp (savings) on any 2022 itinerary booked by April 30, 2021.
New offers include the following itineraries: 12-13-day "Scenic Gorges in Autumn" (Memphis to Chattanooga, and Chattanooga-Memphis/departures October 17 and 28, 2022, visits Paducah KY and Florence AL) and 9-day "Roundtrip Cincinnati" (Kentucky Derby Great Steamboat Race/departs May 2, 2022, cruising on Ohio River and its tributaries, visits Louisville KY and Madison IN).
Starting February 2022, AQSC's "Special Edition Voyages" (on Lower Mississippi) include the themed itineraries "Exploring Haunted History", "Quilting the Fabric of America" and "Celebrate the 70s".
Starting April 2022, Victory Cruise Line offers 3 new itineraries - 17-days Savannah to Halifax (departures April 10 and 13, call ports Charleston SC, Wilmington NC, Boston MA, Portland ME), 11-days "Montreal to Detroit" (departures September 5-14-23 and October 2, features Niagara Falls and a small-boat tour of Thousand Islands/Gananoque Ontario) and 16-days "Boston to Nassau" (departures October 27 and November 3, East Coast USA/Atlantic coastal cruising, call ports Baltimore MD, Charleston SC, West Palm Beach FL, Nassau Bahamas).
Itineraries 2023 Victory Cruise Line (American Queen Voyages Lakes & Ocean)
Due to "unprecedented demand" for 2022 cruises, in mid-February 2021 AQSC and Victory Cruise Lines announced the brands' 2023 ship deployment and itineraries. The season's highlight is the introduction of the chartered ship Ocean Discoverer.
American Queen cruises on Lower Mississippi with scheduled for 2023 a total of 28 departures on itineraries between Memphis TN and NOLA-New Orleans. American Duchess cruises on Ohio River, with scheduled for 2023 a total of 6 itineraries between Louisville KY and Pittsburgh PA.
American Countess cruises on the Mississippi River (between Minneapolis-Saint Paul MN and New Orleans) and on Ohio-Cumberland-Tennessee rivers. American Empress cruises in the Pacific Northwest USA (March 23 through November 26, 2023) on 9-day itineraries between Portland OR and Spokane WA (Vancouver WA and Clarkston WA).
Ocean Discoverer's inaugural cruise departs on May 12, 2023. The ship's maiden voyage is planned as a repositioning cruise from Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas, Costa Rica) to San Diego CA. The inaugural 2023 season is based on 11-12-day Alaskan itineraries Sitka AK-Vancouver BC and Sitka-Seattle.
Ocean Victory also cruises in Alaska during summer 2023 (between Vancouver BC and Sitka AK), with seasonal relocation cruises between Puerto Caldera-Puntarenas and San Diego.
The sistetrships Victory 1 and Victory 2 have scheduled for 2023 itineraries (11- to 16-days long) leaving from homeports Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, Montreal. The itinerary's call ports include Marquette, Mackinaw Island, Sault-Ste Marie (passing Soo Locks), Savannah, Charleston, Fernandina Beach FL. Victory 2 cruises also in the Western Caribbean (Yucatan Mexico) with roundtrips out of Cozumel.
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