With Vaccines Required, AQSC Restarts Hop-On, Hop-Off Touring

American Queen Steamboat Company, part of the Hornblower Group, announced Thursday that as all guests and crew on all sailings are now required to be vaccinated, it's adopted several major health/safety protocol changes. 

River cruise guests will no longer be required to wear masks in any place inside the vessel. Of course, guests can still "mask up" if they so desire. That said, masks will continue to be required for all people on the line's motorcoaches, as well as during the boarding process, per U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  requirements.

The big news is that guests on all sailings can once again head for the line's branded "Hop-On, Hop-Off" motorcoaches and enjoy unrestricted shore explorations. Simply put, the "touring bubble" policy for shore tours is eliminated. 

Also, the pre-cruise PCR test required the day before departure has been eliminated for all guests on Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio River sailings. That pre-cruise PCR test is still a mandate, though (given Washington State regulations), for all Columbia/Snake River sailings. And now that all guests must be vaccinated, they'll be required to upload their proof of vaccination online, after automatically receiving an email from the line about how to do that. 

These policy updates are a result of the cruise line’s vaccination requirement for both guests and crew, first announced in February 2021. And as part of those changes, the line introduced a "Freedom Sale" (see below for details). 

Since March, AQSC has operated two river boats, American Countess and American Duchess, along the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio Rivers with calls at such ports as New Orleans, Memphis, Louisville and

Mississippi River Bridge Photo courtesy of Visit Natchez. Editorial Use Only.

The Mississippi River at Natchez, MS, is shown above. // Photo by Visit Natchez

Kari Tarnowski, AQSC senior vice president of marketing, told Travel Agent in an interview this week that port partners are very happy that river cruise guests will once again patronize local shops, restaurants and other small businesses. And from the cruise line's perspective, "we can now see guests' smiles onboard," she adds. 

Ashore, "you'll see smiles, mingling with local residents and hopping on and off the motorcoaches," she says. Guests are now out of that "bubble" that prevented them from taking off on their own pursuits, such as shopping, dining or touring other sites or attractions.

For example, one "bubble tour" this past spring in Paducah, KY, an AQSC motorcoach took guests to the famous quilt museum for a tour. That said, tour-goers were required to immediately get back on the bus when the tour concluded. So, there was no stopping at any local shops or restaurants or heading out for personalized touring. With restoration of the "Hop-On, Hop-Off" motorcoach touring, that's now possible. 

Those guests who've taken the "Hop-On, Hop-Off" transport in the past will happily find that select attraction admissions will still be included and there will still be—as in the past—designated coach pick-up points in downtown or tourism areas.

In the Pacific Northwest region on the Columbia/Snake rivers, AQSC's American Empress became the first U.S. river boat with 100 percent fully vaccinated guests and crew, starting June 14. 

While that ship's guests also won't need masks inside the ship and can enjoy the "Hop-On, Hop-Off" coach touring, they'll still need to participate in a PCR test at the pre-cruise hotel per Washington state guidelines.

Freedom Sale

To celebrate the vaccines and the additional freedom that gives guests, AQSC also introduced a new "Freedom Sale," which provides a bonus savings of up to $2,000 on select 2022 bookings.

Guests must book by August 31, 2021. The sale also applies to select sailings for sister brand, Victory Cruises. Visit www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com/special-offers.

Health and Safety

American Duchess

American Duchess // Photo by American Queen Steamboat Company

In order to adhere to AQSC's 100 percent vaccination policy onboard, all guests on all AQSC cruises now must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination by uploading an image of their vaccination card prior to the pre-cruise hotel check-in. Guests will receive an e-mail with instructions from the cruise line. Those guests who fail to provide proof will be denied boarding and subject to full cancellation penalties.

AQSC's "SafeCruise" health and safety procedures will continue throughout the entire cruise experience, and feature pre-boarding, boarding and onboard processes to enhance health and safety. Guidance may change at any time without notice based on local regulations.

For more information, visit www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com.

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