Modern Mississippi riverboat to be named American Song

The first of American Cruise Lines’ modern riverboats will be named American Song.

The vessel will launch on the Mississippi River in fall 2018 and will head to the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia and Snake rivers for 2019.

The American Song will be wider, faster, and quieter than any of ACL’s other river cruise ships. Like ACL’s other vessels, the American Song is being built at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md., and thus will be U.S. flagged and crewed.

The vessel will have a four-story glass atrium and large lounge areas. It is being designed to have sweeping views throughout the ship. The staterooms will be the largest in the industry, according to ACL, and will have private balconies and large bathrooms.

With the launch of American Song next year, ACL will operate a fleet of 10 vessels, including coastal cruisers and paddlewheelers.

The company sails along the coasts and inland waterways of Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi River region, the Southeast and New England.

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American Queen launching another Mississippi ship next year

Image result for american queen steamboat

The American Queen Steamboat Co. will add a third vessel to its river fleet in 2017. The 340-foot American Duchess is slated to launch on the Mississippi River next June.

“We’re running full these days,” said American Queen President and COO Ted Sykes. “We’ve been scouring the country for more capacity.”

The company’s flagship vessel, the American Queen, is entering its sixth season cruising the Mississippi. The line expanded in 2014, adding the American Empress in the Pacific Northwest. Now in 2017, American Queen will grow again, converting a former gaming vessel purchased from parent company HMS Global Maritime in August into the all-suite Duchess. The river cruise line plans to gut the ship, rebuilding the interior hotel and adding a working paddlewheel.

The four-deck Duchess will carry 166 passengers in 83 suites, including three 550-square-foot owner’s suites and four 550-square-foot loft suites. Other cabin categories will include deluxe suites (450 square feet), outside veranda suites (240 to 330 square feet) and interior staterooms (180 to 200 square feet).

Compared with the American Queen, Sykes said the new ship will offer a more elevated experience.

Two onboard dining venues will be included in the cruise fare, along with beer and wine at dinner, onboard entertainment and shore excursions. The Grand Dining Room will have open seating and be capable of accommodating the entire ship’s capacity.

American Queen plans to operate the American Duchess year-round on the upper and lower Mississippi. Its voyages will include weeklong roundtrip sailings out Nashville and nine-day voyages between Memphis and New Orleans, and St. Louis and Ottawa, Ill. (about 83 miles from Chicago). The Duchess will also overnight in Nashville, a first for the company.

Prices for most sailings start at $2,999 and top out at $9,499 for one of the three owner’s suites. The Duchess will begin accepting bookings for the 2017 season on Oct. 1.

A challenging start to a promising year

By Michelle Baran
As European river cruise vessels file into winter dry-dock this week, closing up the 2015 season, there is bound to be some nervousness for an industry waiting to see how the 2016 season will play out once it gets underway in the spring.

The dormant winter season offers an opportunity to spruce up older vessels and make final arrangements for the launch of new ones, investments that will hopefully pay off throughout the season. And this coming year has a lot to offer; Both Crystal Cruises and Adventures by Disney (through a partnership with AmaWaterways) will introduce new river cruise products in Europe, and all the major river cruise lines are adding new vessels to their fleets.

Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

There’s a lot to look forward to, and yet 2015 ended with a bit of a question mark in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks in terms of how much the attacks will impact travel in Europe (and consequently river cruising) this year. Surely the hope is that a quiet couple months  – fingers crossed – prior to the start of the 2016 season will help keep pre-existing bookings on the books and reinvigorate the flow of new ones to get 2016 back on track to being as robust as it promised before the attacks.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of exciting developments elsewhere in the world to distract from the situation in Europe. Uniworld is starting its first cruises on India’s Ganges River this month, a new product the company has said has exceeded its expectations in terms of how successful the bookings have been.

And back in the US, it will be interesting to see if we hear anything more from Viking about its plans to launch modern-style Mississippi River vessels in 2017 and from the Delta Queen Steamboat Company about whether the fabled 89-year-old Delta Queen will receive the Congressional exemption it needs to sail again.

Indeed, despite some uncertainty as we start off the year, 2016 still promises to be an exciting and interesting one in river cruising, both in terms of the announcements we already know about and in terms of the surprises we’re always counting on the industry to provide us.