American Queen Voyages

History, Review, Itineraries, Ships, Deck Plans, News

American Queen Voyages cruise line logo

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 cruise brand "American Queen Steamboat Company"/AQSC. For 10 years (between 2011-2021), the company was branded as AQSC. In September 2021, the brand name was changed to "American Queen Voyages"/AQV, 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.

American Queen Voyages logo (CruiseMapper) AQSC-American Queen Steamboat Company

AQV company's current President is Cindy D’Aoust (former CLIA President & CEO) while Isis Ruiz is the CCO (Chief Commercial Officer). Since 2022, AQV's riverboat fleet's VP of Marine Operations is Captain Jethro Beck (former employee of Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, HAL-Holland America Line, Seabourn, Princess, P&O Australia, Shell Oil Co, Global Marine Group).

Since May 2022, AQV's Acting President is David Giersdorf (contracted for 18 months), who reports directly to Kevin Rabbitt (Hornblower Group's CEO). David Giersdorf works with Adam Peakes (Hornblower Group's Executive VP & CFO). AQV's VP of Finance and Accounting is Mostafa Beshir (previously employed by AOV-Atlas Ocean Voyages as Senior Director of Finance).

In 2022-Q4/2023-Q1, AQV's leadership team joined John Kingston (VP of Human resources), Angela Composto (VP of Marketing, previously employed by Ritz-Carlton Yachts, Crystal and Silversea), Alex Dormoi (PMO/Project Management Officer, previously employed by Anew Recruit and Alpha Plus Transportation).

AQV's Expedition brand was officially inaugurated on March 7, 2022, with Ocean Victory departing from Vancouver BC Canada. The special ceremony was attended by John Waggoner (AQV's Founder, Chairman and CEO), Kathy DeLisser (AQV's Canada VP), Ceres (AQV's Canada Terminals), Tom Corsie (Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's Real Estate VP).

In June 2023 AQV announced its plans to concentrate on river cruises resulting in a series of fleet deployment changes/schedule updates for the period 2024-2025. As part of this strategic shift, AQV canceled the Great Lakes 2024 program and announced its plans to sell the ships Ocean Navigator and Ocean Voyager.

AQSC company history and changes

AQV-American Queen Voyages ( fka AQSC-American Queen Steamboat Company ( 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/AQV and 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). The shipowner is part of HMS Global Maritime (1994-founded as Hornblower Marine Services). Part of the corporation are also HMS Ferries, Seaward Services (ship repairs/maintenance/management) and HMS Consulting (maritime business development, risk management, technical services).

Hornblower also owns "Niagara Falls Cruises" (Niagara Falls Gorge Boat Tour Company, via "Hornblower Canada Co"), and (via Hornblower USA Co) also owns the ferry companies/brands "Alcatraz Cruises" (Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay), "Statue Cruises" (NYC, between Liberty Island and Ellis Island), "Hornblower New York Cruises" (sightseeing yachts 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.

AQSC-American Queen Voyages

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.

Currently, the company is led by Ted Sykes. He previously worked in leadership and executive roles at Viking, Vantage, Grand Circle Travel, and Saga UK.

In 2023, AQV's finance team joined Lissette Balbiers (as Senior VP of Finance & Accounting/previously employed by iAero Airways as CFO), Susan Anderson (as Finance Director and Financial Controller/previously employed by Hornblower Cruises as Assistant Financial Controller) and Frits van der Werff (as Senior VP of Guest Experiences/hotel operations, previously employed by NCL-Norwegian, MSC, HAL-Holland America, St Regis Hotels & Resorts/Marriott International, Westgate Resorts).

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 owned by AQSC/AQV ships are stern paddlewheelers designed as the British Victorian era's steam-powered riverboats. Their interior decorations are marked by rich upholstery, ornate chandeliers, custom-made furniture of polished wood and with brass ornaments.

AQV's boats offer modern hotel amenities, such as Wi-Fi in all public spaces, gourmet cuisine, ticket price-inclusive land tours/shore excursions. Still, they aim to evoke the "old timer's" memories of the 19th-century paddlewheel steamships. The riverboats are fitted with an original design steam plant. The steam engine drives a stern paddlewheel to propel the large vessel through water.

In September 2022, AQV partnered with the National Museum of the Great Lakes (Toledo Maritime Center on Maumee River, Toledo OH) to offer Lakelorian guided voyages starting May 2023. On two Toronto-homeported boats (Ocean Voyager, Ocean Navigator), each sailing features a permanent Lakelorian-licensed tour guide. The Lakelorians conduct onboard lectures and discussions (held in the ship's Compass Lounge or Seascape Tavern) themed on the visited city and also answer questions throughout the AQV cruise.

New ships

In September 2016, the company announced a fleet expansion with a newbuild (American Duchess) scheduled for launch in July 2017. However, due to Mississippi's unseasonably high water levels, the launch was postponed for 6 weeks (to August 13th/christening ceremony). The Maiden Voyage was on August 14th, with prices starting from USD 1500 pp (double-occupancy Interior Suite rates). American Duchess was deployed to the rivers Mississippi and Ohio.

American Duchess cruise ship

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).

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, AQV 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)
  • Since January 2, 2023, AQV's all-inclusive fares additionally include port charges, Gov taxes, service fees and onboard gratuities.

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 Ocean Voyager/fka Victory I (2001-built) and Ocean Navigator/fka 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) and deployed seasonally in Alaska.

These four vessels are in a separate fleet (Victory Cruise Line) and operated under the "American Queen Voyages EXPEDITION" brand.

For season 2019 (May through October) were scheduled 10-day Great Lakes voyages operated with all-inclusive deals. Victory 1 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 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 COVID pandemic, 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 (Ocean Navigator) 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

AQV operates unique paddlewheel-boat voyages along the USA's rivers Ohio, Tennessee, Columbia, Cumberland, Snake, Mississippi. The vessels are all traditional-designed American stern-paddlewheelers featuring luxurious and spacious staterooms, top-quality service, authentic onboard and ashore experiences themed on geography, history, culture, music, cuisine.

NOTE: Since 2021, the brand "American Queen Voyages"/AQV groups the 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 AQV. American Queen (fleet's most famous ship) docks there regularly - at the city attraction Beale Street Landing. In April 2014, a second boat (American Empress) joined the fleet after a major refurbishment. The vessel formerly sailed under the name "Empress of the North" - another famous American steamboat. With American Empress, in 2014 the company introduced its Pacific Northwest program.

AQSC/AQV owns and operates four (for now) paddle-wheeler riverboats sailing on some of the biggest rivers in the USA.

Into the subsidiary Victory Cruise Line merged the new brands "American Queen Voyages EXPEDITION" (Alaska, Central America) and "American Queen Voyages LAKES & OCEAN"). The fleet currently includes two pairs of sisterships - Ocean Voyager (fka Victory 1) and Ocean-Navigator (fka Victory 2), as well as the chartered from SunStone Ships Inc (USA-based shipowner) newbuilds Ocean Victory (2021) and Ocean Discoverer (2023).

The following AQV cruise itinerary map shows the company's destinations and all itineraries as rivers and ports of call. The company's main departure ports/homeports 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

Special Edition Voyages (theme cruises) are regularly scheduled annually by AQV and are themed on "Memorial Day", "July 4th" (Star-Spangled, Salute to Veterans), "Thanksgiving", "Christmas and New Year" (Home for the Holidays, Creole Christmas, Country Christmas, New Year"s Celebration), "History and Culture" (Art of Discovery, Civil War), music (American Music Festival, Star-Spangled Spectacular, The Rhythm of the Rivers, Big Band, A Music of the 1950"s-60"s), food and wine (Culinary and Cocktails, Bourbon - An American Spirit, Cajun-Creole Culinary Experience, American Culinary Experience), sports (The Kentucky Derby, American River Golf Classic), other (Past Guest Reunion).

AQV cruise itineraries 2023 (Lakes & Ocean)

Due to "unprecedented demand" for 2022 voyages, 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 (on Lower Mississippi) has scheduled for 2023 a total of 28 departures on itineraries between Memphis and New Orleans. American Duchess (on Ohio River) has scheduled for 2023 a total of 6 itineraries between Louisville KY and Pittsburgh PA.

American Countess operates on Mississippi River (between Minneapolis-Saint Paul MN and New Orleans) and on Ohio-Cumberland-Tennessee rivers. American Empress (Pacific Northwest USA/March 23 thru November 26, 2023) operates 9-day itineraries between Portland OR and Spokane WA (Vancouver WA and Clarkston WA).

Ocean Discoverer's Maiden Voyage (May 12, 2023) 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's Alaska 2023 program (between Vancouver BC and Sitka AK) also offers seasonal relocation cruises between Puntarenas and San Diego.

The sisterships Ocean Voyager/ex Victory 1 and Ocean Navigator/ex 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 (Soo Locks passing), Savannah, Charleston, Fernandina Beach FL. Ocean Navigator also operates in the Western Caribbean (Yucatan Mexico) with roundtrips out of Cozumel.

In 2023 is scheduled the introduction of AQV's new 23-day itinerary "Grand Ohio and Upper Mississippi Rivers" (ship American Countess) departing from Minneapolis on July 24th and ending in Pittsburgh. The reverse 23-day itinerary leaves from Pittsburgh on August 14th. The new route features 1772 mi/2850 km of river cruising and visiting 19x port cities in 10x states - MN (Red Wing), WI (La Crosse), IA (Dubuque, Bettendorf, Burlington), MO (Hannibal, St Louis, Kimmswick, Cape Girardeau), KY (Paducah, Henderson, Owensboro, Brandenburg, Louisville), IN (Madison), OH (Cincinnati), KY (Maysville), WV (Point Pleasant), GA (Marietta).

AQV cruise itineraries 2024

In mid-December 2021 were announced details on AQV's 2024 program, marking it the company's ever furthest (3 years in advance) season open for booking.

"American Queen Voyages River" 2024 season is on the Lower Mississippi (between New Orleans and Memphis) and based on the boats Duchess, Countess and Queen. The three boats also sail on the rivers Ohio and Cumberland.

"American Queen Voyages Lakes and Ocean" itineraries are along the USA-Canada coasts, America's Great Lakes, Yucatan Mexico. Signature cruisetours visit Niagara Falls, Chicago, Martha's Vineyard Island, Bar Harbor, Newport.

"American Queen Voyages Expedition" 2024 Alaskan season (company's third and brand's second) is based on two newbuilds - Ocean Victory (2021) and Ocean Discoverer (2023).

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