American Queen CEO Talks Plans for Victory Cruise Lines

Beautiful landscape of Lake Superior northern shore from above in Ontario, Canada
The two ships will continue to focus on Great Lakes and coastal cruises. // Photo by Elenathewise/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

At a recent event in New York, American Queen Steamboat Company Chairman and CEO John Waggoner shared the company’s latest plans for the Victory I and Victory II, two Great Lakes-based ships the company acquired along with Victory Cruise Lines. The acquisition officially closed earlier this month.

Waggoner said that the company plans to keep the Victory brand name, although it will add “operated by American Queen Steamboat Company” language. “They already have a good, recognizable brand,” he said. 

As for destinations: “We don’t plan on going to Cuba,” Waggoner said, in reference to the Cuba cruises Victory launched early last year. The Victory ships will maintain their focus on the Great Lakes, as well as coastal cruises along the Eastern Seaboard. 

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Waggoner also said the line would like to continue Victory’s recently launched itinerary along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, although plans in that regard are still not final. “We think the Yucatan is great, from the cuisine to the Mexican history and culture,” he said. The line still needs to send a “fact-finding” team to the area to work out the details for potential itineraries. 

In terms of onboard product, the two Victory ships are currently undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation before they re-enter service this May. Certain details of the onboard experience are still up in the air, such as plans for the ship’s spa services, which Waggoner said the line is “currently reviewing.”

“We’re known for our shore excursion product,” Waggoner explained, saying that the line might need to use the spa space for offices for an expanded shore excursions team. 

Developing Victory’s shore excursions to the standard set by American Queen Steamboat Company will be a major focus going forward. Guests can expect enrichment speakers and onboard entertainment in the vein of the company’s river cruises, a focus on local history and culture, and a variety of dining ashore lunches: examples of these will range from a lunch at a local winery in Niagara to a “Copper Miner’s Lunch” at Houghton / Hancock to a gourmet meal at The Grand Hotel on Mackinack Island. As with American Queen Steamboat Company-branded cruises, excursions will be included in the cruise fare. 

The company plans to change the overall look of the ship’s interiors to be more reminiscent of American Queen Steamboat Company’s other ships, too, particularly the American Duchess and American Empress. The ships’ Lounge and Tavern spaces will receive a redesign in the vein of the Engine Room bar, while the accommodations will get upgraded carpets and drapes, as well as the same amenities -- such as sheets, robes and slippers -- as the river ships. 

Other changes will include enclosing the stern on the Victory II, to make it usable in a wider variety of weather, as well as adding shades to the sun deck on the Victory I

Each ship will have two dining venues, a main restaurant and an alternative space. The Victory I will have the open-air Cliff Rock Grill, while the Victory II will have the enclosed Lighthouse Grill. The ships will also serve High Teas with an international flair. 

The two ships are set to re-enter service in May. Through October, Victory I will sail between Montreal and Detroit visiting Quebec City, Kingston, Toronto/Welland Canal, Port Colborne/Niagara Falls and Cleveland. Victory II will sail between Toronto and Chicago calling on Port Colborne/Niagara Falls/Welland Canal, Cleveland, Detroit, in addition to sailing scenic Lake Huron, Little Current and visiting Soo Locks/Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinac Island and ending on Lake Michigan.  

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