American Cruise Lines will introduce its first modern European-style river ship to the United States next week, part of the ongoing quest by river cruise companies to meet increasing demand not only for more domestic cruises but also those with more diverse itineraries and vessels.
The American Song will make its inaugural voyage from New Orleans to Memphis next week, then reposition to the Pacific Northwest in the spring, when its sister vessel the American Harmony joins the company’s fleet.
Last week, the American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) signed a deal to build its fourth paddlewheeler and Viking says it continues with plans for entering the U.S. market.
Upon signing a deal with the Gulf Island shipyard in Louisiana to build a 245-passenger paddlewheeler using the existing hull a former gaming vessel, AQSC John Waggoner said the company continues to “break sales records and incredible demand remains for more capacity on the river with each of our boats continuing to sail full.”
Likewise, American Cruise Line said demand is growing “exponentially” for its fleet of small ships and river vessels, which has grown from seven to 11 since 2016. It’s river fleet will have doubled from three in 2015 to six when the American Harmony begins to sail next year.
Demand is so strong for the American Song that the company is forgoing the traditional preview sailings for media and travel advisers.
David Luxeder, director of brand development for American Cruise Lines, said several things are fueling the rising demand.
“There is a huge generation of active baby boomers retiring and looking for better sophisticated travel options closer to home,” he said. “They are smart in saving the extra expense, and skipping the hassles of international flights, finding magnificent river cruising options here in the U.S. After all, we have one of the most dynamic and geographically diverse nations on earth and American offers over 35 carefully curated itineraries where guests can explore it all.”
Susan Shultz-Gelino, director of business development, said there is also a consistently strong and growing interest in culturally-focused river cruises and those with longer stops, including itineraries that visit antebellum homes and civil war battlefields on the Mississippi and retrace the steps of Lewis and Clarke through canyons and mountains along the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the Northwest.
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