Cruising may be put on hold for now but when it does resume American Queen Steamboat Company will be ready. With new health and safety protocols in place, and brand new cruises and booking incentives for 2021, AQSC is well positioned to make a triumphant return to some of America’s mightiest rivers. In this edition of Take Five, we check in with John W. Waggoner, Founder and CEO, to discuss what to expect from the river cruise company post-pandemic.
- How have you changed the health and safety protocols on your vessels?
In many facets, starting with training and instituting new protocols. To make certain we’re on the right track, we are working with Ochsner Health in conjunction with other healthcare providers to address concerns regarding COVID-19. Ochsner Health is Louisiana’s largest non-profit, academic, healthcare system. In our never-ending effort to keep our guests, crew and the communities we visit safe, Ochsner has agreed to provide crew-testing and passenger-screening for our Mississippi River itineraries, in addition to medical consultation services and telehealth capabilities to guests onboard any of our vessels. We will be utilizing Ochsner’s Safe to Return Employer Solutions as a resource in staying current with guidance, mandates and public health advancements communicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United State Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), United State Coast Guard (USGC) and the municipalities each vessel visits.
You will certainly notice new processes implemented onboard to promote the health and well-being of our guests. These identify and combat the risk of COVID-19 on our boats, and most visibly to guests will be pre-cruise screenings, crew screening and boarding processes, along with enhanced cleaning procedures for both onboard and ground operations.
- Are you seeing an increased demand in domestic cruising this year?
Yes, we have. We believe that our domestic routes will offer a more attractive cruise option this year, and in 2021. Travellers and agents have told us they’re looking for close-to-home destinations and small-capacity cruises with easy access to shore-side health care if needed. The beauty and experiences of an American Queen Steamboat and the interesting places we go on the U.S. rivers remains unique and should be on everyone’s vacation list.
- What sort of programs have you done to work with the community during the COVID-19 pandemic?
While all communities have been affected, our primary focus during this time has been to support our trade partner community. We’ve been working hard to make sure that when we return to operations, agents will have the utmost confidence in selling and promoting our great products. We’ve kept all the lines of communication open, and like many worked through this challenging situation from our homes.
To that extent, we’ve increased our agency communications on health and safety, provided attractive pricing and incentives for 2021 bookings and have done our best to help them servicing bookings affected by the suspensions.
- What’s new in 2021 for American Queen Steamboat Company?
A few things! In 2021 we will introduce The Queen’s Collection. These thoughtfully planned cruises feature unique and special voyage programming. Lively onboard events pair with exclusive shore excursions to create meaningful, in-depth and unforgettable memories. In addition, we’ve grown our presence on the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers which are some of the most breathtaking river valleys in America. The American Countess will embark on a brand new route up the Illinois River.
- What are some of your most iconic routes in 2021?
For a first time U.S. river cruiser, our ‘Charms of the South’ is the must-do on any of our boats, but in particular on the American Queen. This route from New Orleans to Memphis (or reverse) lets us introduce you to the American South – what it has been and what it has become. Food, music, culture and the hospitable people of the lower Mississippi.
Next, the ‘Splendor of the Pacific Northwest’ on American Empress delivers an entirely different experience. The history, the beauty and Northwest climate make for a spectacular journey.
A bucket list for many is our Mighty Mississippi, travelling the entire length of one of the world’s most written about rivers. From the start in Minneapolis to New Orleans, the significance of the Mississippi and its meaning to America is unfolded as our guests visit the many cities which reside on her.
And last but not least, I would recommend the ‘Ohio River Exploration Louisville to Pittsburgh’ (or reverse). The Ohio played a key role as our country expanded west, and the cities along her are rich in history of her immigrants who settled there. Louisville, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are but a few on this hallowed route in the steamboatin’ community.