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January 15, 2019

American Queen Acquires Victory Cruise Lines

American Queen Steamboat Co Acquires Victory Cruise Lines

By Anne Kalosh.

River cruise operator American Queen Steamboat Co. is expanding its fleet and its horizons with the acquisition of Victory Cruise Lines. Victory fields two small coastal ships, Victory I and Victory II.

They’re going to undergo a $3 million refurbishment before beginning Great Lakes service in May. Ten-day voyages are planned.

Victory I will sail between Montréal and Detroit, visiting Québec City, Kingston, Toronto/Welland Canal, Port Colborne/Niagara Falls and Cleveland. Victory II will sail between Toronto and Chicago, calling at Port Colborne/Niagara Falls/Welland Canal, Cleveland and Detroit, in addition to Lake Huron, Little Current, Soo Locks/Sault Ste. Marie and Mackinac Island.

American Queen Acquires Victory Cruise Lines

Victory I is going to ply the Great Lakes on cruises between Montréal and Detroit. * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines

AQSC Chairman and CEO John Waggoner cited great demand for the Great Lakes. Many bookings are from companies that specialize in alumni group travel. Also, he said AQSC’s loyal customer base is keen for new destinations.

The Victory ships will be in the Great Lakes through October, before making their way to New England and down the Eastern Seaboard. It’s possible a few cruises to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula will operate before the vessels go into winter layup in Houma, Louisiana.

Under previous management, one ship was scheduled to sail circumnavigations of Cuba. “We haven’t ruled it out,” Waggoner said. But he indicated other lines already circle Cuba, and he wants Victory to offer more unusual routes, taking advantage of the ships’ shallow draft. They’ll return to the Great Lakes for another season in spring 2020.

But first the 202-passenger ships will be getting some interior refurbishment. Victory I’s stern area will be enclosed, like Victory II, to provide an alternative dining venue. New mattresses and high-thread-count linens, fresh wallpaper, china and silver are other additions, and the dining will be upgraded. Waggoner said the Victory pair has been well-maintained; there’s no need for technical work.

Built in Florida as the U.S.-flag Cape May Light and Cape Cod Light, they had most recently sailed as Saint Laurent for the short-lived Haimark Line and as Sea Discoverer for various charterers. They’re currently registered the Bahamas. Victory’s new owners will seek to reflag them to the U.S., a process that requires a congressional approval and is expected to take about two years.

Expeditions in the Forecast!

In further fleet and deployment news, a new build expedition ship, Ocean Victory, has been chartered for the (northern) summers, starting in 2021. Itineraries haven’t been decided, but look for Victory to branch out into the Arctic. Talk about expanding horizons!

AQSC runs the American Queen steamboat and the American Duchess paddle-wheeler in the U.S. heartland, while American Empress plies the Pacific Northwest. A fourth riverboat, American Countess, is under construction.


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