This Week in Cruise: AQV Shuts Down, Carnival Jubilee Christened

Last week American Queen Voyages (AQV) shut down operations—canceling all cruises and terminating employees—and shortly thereafter parent company Hornblower filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company hopes to sell the American river brand’s assets, including its U.S.-flagged ships. Many large travel networks had recently stopped selling the brand as a preferred supplier. 

In a vibrant, Texas-style event, singer Gwen Stefani christened Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, the 5,374-passenger Carnival Jubilee, in Galveston, TX, on Saturday. The godmother pulled a lasso around a lever to send a bottle of champagne crashing into the ship’s side—thus completing the maritime naming ceremony tradition in a Lone-Star-State way. 

Carnival President Christine Duffy told the event's attendees that by the end of 2024, Carnival will have carried 10 million passengers from the Texas port. In 2001, Carnival was the first major line to initiate cruise service from Galveston, now a major cruise home port for multiple lines. 

Carnival Jubilee Godmother Gwen Stefani Christens Ship
Carnival Jubilee Godmother Gwen Stefani christens the ship in Galveston, TX. (Photo by Carnival Cruise Line)

More Cruise News

Separately, parent Carnival Corporation announced a $100 million pier expansion to add two additional berths at the new Celebration Key on Grand Bahama Island. That will double the arrivals at Carnival’s new exclusive destination, which is slated to open in 2025. In addition, Carnival Corporation released its 2023 annual report showing the following highlights:

  • Full-year revenues hit an all-time high of $21.6 billion.
  • For the first time since the resumption of guest cruise operations, net income was positive during the third quarter, generating $1.07 billion.
  • Carnival Corporation entered 2024 with its best booked position on record, for both price and occupancy.
  • Total customer deposits for each quarter throughout 2023 consistently surpassed the previous quarterly records.
  • The company reduced its debt balance by $4.6 billion from its peak in the first quarter of 2023 and ended the year with $5.4 billion of liquidity.

In other news, MSC Cruises introduced a creative, new "open booking" option, which allows guests to make a future cruise reservation during their current sailing without the need to commit to a particular vessel, itinerary or sailing date. Travel advisors who made the original cruise reservation will also benefit from the “open booking” program by receiving full commission once the ship and sail date are selected.

Cunard Line also announced new 2025-27 voyages, including World Voyages and the line's first homeporting at PortMiami, as Queen Elizabeth will sail winter Caribbean season voyages.

U.S.-flagged American Cruise Lines (ACL) opened its 2024 Mississippi River cruise season, noting that it has plans for continued expansion there. The line operates 17 U.S.-flagged small ships, a mix of river and coastal vessels and is building many more. It's important to note that it's a totally separate cruise line from American Queen Voyages with different ownership. Travel Agent also returned last week from a week-long voyage on one of ACL's coastal catamarans, American Eagle, so look for our coverage starting later this week about the ship, our onboard experience and "The Great Rivers of Florida" itinerary. 

American Eagle
The first of American Cruise Lines' "Coastal Catamarans," American Eagle. (American Cruise Lines)

Trade Developments

Under the direction of Frank Belzer, newly appointed as senior vice president of sales and partnerships, Margaritaville at Sea, a cruise line offering short voyages from the Port of Palm Beach and the Port of Galveston, has introduced a new travel trade initiative. It’s now supporting travel advisors with a sales team, hosted shipboard programming and digital tools.

Cruise Planners’ franchise agency owner Michael Consoli of Roswell, GA, continues to soar in cruise sales. The franchise organization announced that Consoli and his small team of just four others had posted $40 million in 2023 sales. That tops any other Cruise Planners agency and it's up from the $23 million achieved in 2022. Consoli's agency has been Viking’s global top seller for nine years in a row.

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