It’s not just Europe’s rivers that are worth voyaging – American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) is making a case for river cruises in America too. Sailing down the country’s most historic rivers, AQSC offers a high-end and highly entertaining river cruise experience for clients who don’t want to venture too far from home. In this week’s Friday Five, we ask John Waggoner, chairman and CEO of American Queen Steamboat Company and president and sister brand CEO of Victory Cruise Lines, why clients should consider a U.S. river cruise and what they can look forward to this year and next.
1. For travel agents who aren’t familiar with the company, tell us about what AQSC offers.
We proudly offer what we call ‘Uniquely American River Cruises’. We’re so proud of it, in fact, that we trademarked the phrase! Guests may choose from cruises of varying lengths, from six to 16 days, on our three elegant paddlewheel riverboats: the American Queen, American Duchess and American Empress. Each features an authentic red paddlewheel and elegant styling that call to mind the glory days of steamboating.
The American Queen and American Duchess cruise through the country’s heartland on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and the American Empress sails the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the stunning Pacific Northwest.
Each cruise offers impressive inclusions such as a pre-cruise hotel night, complimentary wine and beer with dinner, 24-hour room service, comprehensive guided shore excursions, top-notch entertainment, daily onboard enrichment, Internet service and more. We put a great deal of thought and effort into making the most of our beautiful boats and giving guests a truly unique travel experience. These vessels serve as the ideal vehicles for showing off the hidden gems of America’s waterways.
We’re also extremely proud of our friendly, attentive staff. Each week we receive positive feedback about how staff members, who many guests know by name, go above and beyond to provide stellar, personalized service.
2. Do you think American river cruises are comparable to the popular river cruises in Europe?
River cruises on America’s rivers, like those on the rivers of Europe, beautifully showcase the history of the major metropolitan areas, quaint towns and rolling fields and farmlands along the routes, in addition to the history of the rivers themselves. Our guests experience travel the way early pioneers did, but in comfort and luxury, with modern amenities.
Our boats themselves are rich in history and feature stunning décor, artifacts of historical significance and original maritime artwork. There’s something amazing to see, no matter where you turn.
3. What do you think are the top three selling features of your river cruises?
Our masterful regional cuisine is artfully and thoughtfully created by our experienced culinary teams, inspired by the areas in which we travel and sourced locally or regionally when possible. Guests rave about the fabulous meals onboard. Our paddlewheelers offer elegant main dining areas and more casual alternative venues.
The entertainers who perform in our impressive showrooms are top-quality and Broadway-caliber. Many have been with us for a long time, and frequent guests have favourite personalities they look forward to seeing. We also bring on amazing guest performers and lecturers. Our resident history and culture expert – the Riverlorian – conducts daily river chats and provides all kinds of insights into river life. Those chats are extremely popular.
Finally, our award-winning shore excursions, both included and premium, showcase the best of our ports of call, and guests never fail to learn a lot and delve deeply into aspects of the ports that are of special interest them.
4. Who is your main audience?
We appeal to mature, experienced travellers who are looking for a new way to experience the United States. Our river cruises provide a beautiful blend of time ashore exploring and simply drifting along, enjoying the scenery, onboard dining and activities and forging new friendships with fellow travellers.
5. What’s new for AQSC in 2019 and 2020?
As of January, we acquired Victory Cruise Lines, with two spectacular, discovery-designed small ships built for navigating lakes, inland harbors and shorelines in ways that larger boats cannot. Those ships – the M/V Victory I and M/V Victory II – will sail the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway and New England, with other exciting itineraries down the Eastern Seaboard in the works.
I’m thrilled to say that next year, we’ll launch a sister to our three gorgeous paddlewheelers – the American Countess. She will traverse routes similar to those of the American Queen and American Duchess, with the same nostalgic look and feel, but with a personality all her own. Also next year, guests on the American Duchess will enjoy included Unlimited Beverage Packages and prepaid gratuities. That’s going to add a great deal of value to those voyages.