American Cruise Lines Gains Four New Ships From Bankrupt Fleet

In an auction, American Cruise Lines acquired four river ships from American Queen Voyages, which ceased operations in February of 2024.

One cruise line’s loss is another cruise line’s gain. American Cruise Lines, the largest river and small-ship cruise line in the United States, has gained four new ships as part of American Queen Voyages’ bankruptcy proceedings. 

Four New River Ships to Join American Cruise Lines’ Fleet

American Cruise Lines (ACL) just grew its fleet of 19 small ships and river vessels to 23 essentially overnight. The cruise line, which is based in Guildford, Connecticut, emerged victorious in an auction for American Queen Voyages’ (AQV) ships and assets. 

American Queen Voyages offered overnight river cruises and expedition cruises throughout the US and beyond, calling on destinations like Alaska, the Heartland Rivers in Mississippi, New Orleans, Columbia, the Snake Rivers of the Pacific Northwest, Central America, and even Antarctica. The cruise line operated from 2011 until February 20, 2024, when it declared bankruptcy and shuttered its doors

The now closed-down cruise line, which was originally called the Great American Steamboat Co., was unable to recover after the Coronavirus pandemic. AQV was ultimately put up for sale and its parent company, the Hornblower Group, got a new majority owner: Strategic Value Partners, a global alternative investment firm. As part of the sale, the cruise line’s assets had to be sold off – which is how American Cruise Lines acquired its newest vessels. 

The cruise line purchased four paddlewheelers from the dismantled cruise line, including American Queen, a 436-guest ship launched in 1995 and the largest paddlewheel steamboat ever built; American Countess, a 245-guest ship that was built in 2017 using the hull of a 1995 casino ship; American Duchess, with a capacity for 166 guests and built in 2017 using a hull from a 1995 casino ship; and American Empress, a 224 guest ship that entered service in 2003.

America Queen Cruise Vessel
America Queen Cruise Vessel (Photo Credit: Vicki L. Miller / Shutterstock)

“American Cruise Lines is pleased to be the successful bidder for AQV’s river vessels. We look forward to announcing additional details as we move through the bankruptcy process,” Alexa Paolella, American Cruise Lines Public Relations Manager, told Cruise Hive.

While the sale still needs to be approved and finalized in the court system, ACL will be shelling out a collective $5.55 million (USD) to complete the sale. The river cruise provider also paid an additional $750,000 for AQV related assets, including trademarks, website domain names, and relevant business records.  

AQVs two coastal vessels, Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator, also went to auction on April 1, 2024 – although no winner has been announced. 

American Cruise Lines’ Expanding Fleet 

American Cruise Lines is the largest river and small-ship cruise line in the US. The cruise line was founded in 1972 by Charles A. Robertson, a shipbuilder, who dreamed up the business with his wife, Carol. Together, the couple built the cruise line from the ground up. 

While Robertson passed away in 2020 at the age of 72, the company he built continues to flourish. In the past five years, ACL has nearly tripled its fleet, while also introducing new riverboats on the Mississippi River every year since 2018.

American Glory
American Glory (Photo Courtesy: America Cruise Lines)

These vessels will call on more than 125 ports throughout the 2024 season, visiting destinations like New England, Mississippi, national parks throughout the US, Alaska, Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Hudson River in New York. 

Currently, the cruise line operates a US-flagged fleet of 19 ships, which consists of a mix of coastal ships that sail around America’s East and West Coasts, Columbia and Snake River Boats, Mississippi Riverboats, Modern Riverboats, and Coastal Cats. 

Read Also: Cruise Line Marks Launch of River Cruise High-Season

In addition to gaining four new ships from AQV, American Cruise Lines has already ordered a mix of five new riverboats and Coastal Cats to be delivered over the next two years, bringing their fleet of 19 to 28 by the end of 2025. 

With the popularity of river cruising on the rise, ACL is not the only cruise line to be expanding its fleet either. Saga Cruises also ordered the construction of a new river ship, Spirit of the Moselle, which is scheduled to enter service in July of 2025.

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