Close to home for many clients, AQV’s Great Lakes sailings combine Canadian and U.S. ports of call

Close to home for many clients, AQV’s Great Lakes sailings combine Canadian and U.S. ports of call

TORONTO — With the pre-departure testing requirement now lifted for arrivals into the U.S., American Queen Voyages is anticipating a swift upswing in bookings from the Canadian market.

Canadians have already been booking the company’s river cruises, lakes and ocean sailings and expedition voyages, as travel ramps back up. In fact U.S. and Canadian passengers make up the vast majority of AQV’s rosters — 88% — with international passengers (primarily from the UK, Australia and Germany) accounting for the remaining 12%.

But the removal of the last hurdle for travel into the U.S., after the CDC rescinded its pre-departure test requirement just over a week ago, will really make a difference.

Ideal for Canadians eyeing their first trip at this point in the pandemic are AQV’s itineraries that mix Canadian and U.S. ports, offering clients a way to rediscover travel again without going too far afield.

AQV’s lakes and oceans cruise vessels, Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator, are sailing the Great Lakes this summer. Travelweek had the chance to step aboard Ocean Voyager last week during the ship’s turnaround day in Toronto.

Close to home for many clients, AQV’s Great Lakes sailings combine Canadian and U.S. ports of call

Onboard Ocean Voyager on June 17, 2022 are (left to right) Isis Ruiz, Chief Commercial Officer for AQV; Captain Wojtek Ziockowski; and Michael Hicks, Senior Director of Marketing Communications for AQV

Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator joined the AQV fleet in early 2019, when AQV – then known as American Queen Steamboat Company – took over Victory Cruise Lines. Back then, the ships were M/V Victory I and the M/V Victory II. The ships’ name changes were part of a rebranding in fall 2021, just after AQSC became AQV. In the meantime AQV invested more than US$3 million into upgrades for the two vessels.

They’re identical sister ships, with 202 passengers each, purpose-built for the canals and locks of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Onboard, guests will find 101 suites and staterooms across five passenger decks, two dining venues and two lounges, including the Compass Lounge where lectures and entertainment take place.

For summer 2022, the two ships are sailing 11-day itineraries between Chicago and Toronto, to ports including Mackinac Island, MI, Sault Ste. Marie, MI, Manitoulin Island, Detroit, Cleveland, Niagara Falls and Toronto.

The sailings combine the ease, convenience and intimacy of European river cruising with close-to-home ports, especially for clients in Ontario.

ONBOARD OCEAN VOYAGER

On the day Travelweek stepped aboard Ocean Voyager, passengers were enjoying a tour of sunny (albeit windy) Toronto before embarkation.

In a smart move especially in these pandemic times, packages include a one-night pre-cruise stay (in Toronto, it’s the Marriott) complete with pre-cruise antigen testing.

The pre-cruise testing is still required by Canadian regulations, plus it’s part of AQV’s COVID-19 protocols.

“Passengers tell us it gives them a lot of peace of mind, and for many it’s a deciding factor in sailing with us,” says Isis Ruiz, Chief Commercial Officer for AQV.

Cruise packages onboard Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator also include hotel-ship ground transfers, unlimited guided tours, unlimited beverages, open bars and lounges, dining, unlimited WiFi and live daily onboard entertainment and enrichment.

With AQV’s Summer of Discovery Savings deal, clients can save up to $4,800 per stateroom off select 2022, 2023 and 2024 sailings, for bookings made by June 30, 2022.

Ruiz says AQV’s passengers tend to be 60+, primarily couples with a few solo travellers. The company welcomes younger travellers too and Ruiz says multigenerational groups are a growing market for AQV, citing one couple recently celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with a group trip for eight, with kids and grandkids in tow.

Close to home for many clients, AQV’s Great Lakes sailings combine Canadian and U.S. ports of call

RIVERS, LAKES, OCEANS & EXPEDITIONS

As part of the 2021 rebrand, AQV categorized its cruise product into three divisions: American Queen Voyages River, American Queen Voyages Lakes & Ocean and American Queen Voyages Expedition.

Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator are the flagships of American Queen Voyages Lakes & Ocean.

American Queen Voyages River, meanwhile, has the ships that started it all: AQV’s famous river cruise vessels with their bright red paddlewheels. First came the namesake U.S.-flagged American Queen, the largest riverboat in the world. In 2014, American Empress joined the fleet and then, in 2017, American Duchess. And in March 2021, American Countess set sail.

The third division, American Queen Voyages Expedition, marks the brand’s entry into expedition cruising. Comprised of new- build 186-passenger vessels, the expeditions line is operating all-inclusive cruises to Alaska’s Inside Passage on the brand new Ocean Victory this season. Sister ship Ocean Discoverer is scheduled for delivery in 2023.

More information about AQV can be found here. And the cruise company’s travel agent portal can be found here.

AQV is also keeping its travel advisor partners up to date with an upcoming webinar, scheduled for Thurs. June 30, 2022 at 12 p.m. ET. The registration link is here.

Cruise Strategies represents AQV in Canada and can assist with sales, marketing and group requests. Agents can email Olga Sebestova at osebestova@cruisestrategies.com or Vanessa Lee at vlee@cruisestrategies.com, or call (416) 518-0262.