Cruise Line Shuts Down and Cancels All Sailings

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American Queen Voyages, an operator of river and expedition ships based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, shut down on February 20, 2024, after it was unable to overcome the financial challenges of the pandemic era. The company said that guests who have paid deposits for future sailings will receive full refunds.

Cruise Line Unable to Recover From Pandemic’s Impact

American Queen Voyages, a cruise brand with seven ships that include a mix of authentic paddlewheel riverboats, and boutique and expedition vessels, is no longer operating as of February 20, 2024. The company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and all cruises have been cancelled.

“We are saddened to share that American Queen Voyages (AQV) has made the difficult decision to shut down. The overnight cruise industry was especially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and related changes in travel preferences. Despite great efforts by our team, crew and partners, demand has not recovered, and AQV has become financially unsustainable,the company said in an announcement.

American Queen Voyages owns American Queen, a 417-guest ship built in 1995; American Countess, a 245-guest ship that launched in 1996; American Duchess, with a capacity for 166 guests and built in 1996; and American Empress, a 217-guest ship that entered service in 2003.

Additionally, it owns the expedition ship Ocean Victory, which carries 186 guests and was the company’s newest ship, having debuted in 2021. The company’s river ships operated on the Lower and Upper Mississippi, Cumberland, Tennessee, Columbia, and Snake rivers. Ocean Victory typically sailed Central America itineraries in winter and Alaska cruises in summer.

American Queen Voyages Ocean Navigator Ship
Photo Courtesy: American Queen Voyages

The company was in the process of decommissioning and preparing to sell two more expedition ships, Ocean Navigator and Ocean Voyager. Ocean Navigator was in the news in October of 2023, when an explosion onboard the vessel as it was docked in Portland, Maine, caused all guests and crew to be evacuated. One crew member was injured.

The cruise line’s future looked brighter just a year ago: In February 2023, the line became one of the industry’s first to implement SpaceX Starlink Maritime, the satellite-based internet service, across its fleet.

However, in recent weeks, several major travel agencies have suspended sales of American Queen Voyages cruises due to slow payment of commissions and service problems, according to trade reports. The agencies included AAA Travel, Pleasant Holidays, Virtuoso, and Signature Travel Network.

Guest Refunds to Come Through Insurance Agency 

The American Queen Voyages website provides instructions to booked guests, who will now have to apply for refunds of deposits already paid for future cruises. The cruise line’s deposits are insured by Argo Surety, and all applications for refunds must be made to that outfit.

Read Also: What Are the Best Cruise Lines for Families?

Guests can print a claim form, or fill it out online, and must provide supporting documentation, including proof of payment. Guests will receive a denial notice from American Queen Voyages, and can then file a refund claim with Argo Surety.

According to the cruise line, guests cannot submit a request for a refund directly to Argo Surety unless American Queen Voyages first denies their claim or 180 days have passed since they submitted a claim to the cruise line.

American Queen Voyages was founded as the Great American Steamboat Co., when John Waggoner bought the 436-guest riverboat American Queen from the United States Maritime Administration in 2011.

In September 2021, the company was rebranded American Queen Voyages. Its parent company is Hornblower Group, based in San Francisco.

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