My friend Kay Showker, sent me this story about American Queen Steamboat Company’s new all-suite ship, the American Duchess, set to debut in June 2017.
By Kay Showker
The American Queen Steamboat Companypaddlewheeler to its U.S.-flagged fleet in June 2017. Named American Duchess, the 166-passenger vessel, is not only the first all-suite river cruiser ever built for the Mississippi River, she will have the largest suites in every category on the river.
Memphis-based American Queen Steamboat Companyowner and operator of the American Queen and American Empress, recently purchased the American-made hull (one of the several requirements of the Jones Act for boats sailing on U.S. waterways, along with U.S. made fittings and furnishings and U.S. staff). AQSC expects to begin rebuilding its super-structure soon. A paddlewheel will be added to her stern along with many of the features popular on her sister cruisers and will be laced with fanciful gingerbread trim, the trademark of AQSC cruisers.
The three-deck of the American Duchess will actually be somewhat smaller than her sister cruisers. Her suites will offer generous space with three 550 sq. ft. Owner’s Suites and four 550 sq. ft. Loft Suites, a first for a U.S. riverboat. The Veranda Suites and Interior Suites will measure approximately 250 sq. ft. The new vessel will offer open seating in two dining venues, the Grand Dining Room and the Grill Room, and will serve regionally inspired cuisine similar to that on the American Queen. Complimentary wine and beer will be served with dinner.
Also included in the cruise price are coffee, soft drinks and bottled water throughout the cruise, as well as shore excursions in every port of call in the company’s own fleet of motorcoaches; one night deluxe hotel-stay before the cruise with breakfast; and taxes, porterage, and transfer to the vessel.
A feature new for the line, American Duchess will offer overnight stays in port in Nashville as well as shorter roundtrip itineraries from the “Music City” and New Orleans. Passengers will have the added convenience of departing from Chicago (Ottawa, Il.) for the first time.
“Demand for more capacity on the Mississippi River has been overwhelming the past two seasons,” explained Ted Sykes, president and COO of American Queen Steamboat Company. “A third vessel will help us meet that demand and give us flexibility in creating itineraries for the riverboats, now sailing between New Orleans and St. Paul.” Since spring 2014, AQSC has also sailed the Pacific Northwest with the American Empress.
American Queen Steamboat Company is quite a cruise success story. In five short years, it has grown to over 500 employees and will be hiring another 100 for the new ship. All are from the U.S. “We are proud of the economic impact we continue to have … in our homeport of Memphis and the cities like New Orleans and St. Louis, we visit.” noted John Waggoner, the line’s chairman and president and CEO of HMS Global Maritime, which operates 85 U.S.-flagged vessels and owns of AQSC.