American Cruise Lines to Acquire Four American Queen Voyages River Vessels

The suspense about where the four American Queen Voyages’ (AQV) U.S. river vessels will end up is nearly over. Today, Travel Agent learned that—pending court approval—American Cruise Lines (ACL), the largest operator on U.S. rivers, will acquire them.

Following AQV’s cessation of operations and the subsequent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of AQV's parent company, Hornblower Holdings, the ships were put up for an auction sale. Bids were due by March 25 to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

Today, in a brief statement, ACL said: "American Cruise Lines is pleased to be the successful bidder for AQV’s river vessels. We look forward to announcing additional details after this portion of the Hornblower Holdings bankruptcy process concludes.” Now, the sale awaits the bankruptcy court’s final approval during an upcoming hearing. 

The four AQV river ships being acquired are:

  • The 436-passenger American Queen, the largest "paddlewheeler" ever built with a traditional look and decor;  
  • The more intimate, 166-passenger American Duchess, a contemporary small-ship with some two-level loft suites;
  • The 245-passenger American Countess, which AQV considered a good group ship given its many same-category accommodations; and
  • The American Empress, accommodating 221 to 224 passengers, depending on the source. 

The first three vessels listed above sailed for AQV on the Mississippi and other heartland rivers, while American Empress plied the Columbia and Snake Rivers of the Pacific Northwest.

Two other AQV coastal vessels, Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator, were set for an April 1 auction by the bankruptcy court. There’s no word yet about any successful bids but stay tuned here for any update.

In addition, AQV had previously chartered a small coastal ship, Ocean Victory, to operate Alaska sailings in summer 2024. According to a Seatrade Cruise News, the ship's owner SunStone Group has laid that vessel up in Caen, France, for 2024. But it's also signed a new 10-year summer season charter agreement for the vessel. The charterer was not revealed. 

Totally separate, Ocean Victory already operates under a long-term charter to Albatros Expeditions during the Antarctica season. That is not impacted as part of the AQV situation. 

In the past five years, fast-growing American Cruise Lines has tripled its fleet. Excluding these AQV vessels, the small-ship, U.S. flagged ACL fleet consists of 17 river and coastal vessels. Two more new coastal catamarans will join the fleet in summer and fall 2024, taking the ACL total to 19 vessels. Travel Agent recently sailed on one of those new coastal catamarans during a Great Rivers of Florida” itinerary earlier this year.

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