By James Shillinglaw, Dec 16, 2020
American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) and Victory Cruise Lines (VCL), both Hornblower Family Companies, unveiled plans for new enhancements and offerings as their ships look forward to welcoming aboard guests once again in 2021. The upgraded offerings and operations will include increased measures made to health and safety protocols, the 2021 Wave Offer, elevated suite amenities and fresh culinary experiences. (Pictured in slide show above: Ocean Victory and American Countess.)
AQSC and VCL also will kick off the 2021 sailing season by introducing two new vessels to their fleets, the American Countess and the Ocean Victory, in addition to unveiling expanded Special Edition Voyages. This announcement follows the recent launch of the AQSC 2021 Paddlewheel Collection Brochure, the 2022 season itineraries for AQSC and VCL featuring newly offered routes, and the recently launched Steamboat and Victory Academy (SAVA), a travel agent certification program tailored specifically to AQSC and VCL cruises.
“We have been hard at work to make the upcoming 2021 season the greatest, thus far, for our guests with new special edition themed voyages, expanded inclusive offerings, suite upgrades and 100% rapid testing for guests and crew,” said John Waggoner, CEO and founder of AQSC. “Coming off the heels of an unprecedented year, we are looking forward to the future and being able to welcome aboard our loyal guests once again as we continue to offer amazing experiences. We have a great deal to be excited about and have focused on every detail so that we can provide the safest cruising experiences possible.”
Health & Safety: To ensure the safety and comfort of both guests and crew, AQSC and VCL are staying current with guidance, mandates and public health advancements communicated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Coast Guard (USGC), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the municipalities each vessel visits.
All vessels will be operating with newly enhanced health and safety protocols including, but not limited to: 100 percent COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation on every voyage; mandatory masks in all venues and in situations where recommended social distancing is not possible, including entertainment venues, elevators, shoreside and shore excursion motorcoaches; pre-boarding health screenings for guests and crew members; contactless facial recognition and temperature check at the gangway; reduced vessel capacity; mandatory social distancing protocols in all public spaces; standardized measures throughout the vessels to prioritize regular cleaning and disinfecting of guest corridors and public spaces with medical-grade EPA-approved solutions as well as twice daily anti-viral electrostatic fogging.
Both AQSC and VCL have enacted expert-approved procedures for every aspect of the cruise experience, including crewmember standards, food and beverage practices and shore excursions. For more information on AQSC and VCL health and safety protocols, visit www.victorycruiselines.com/health-and-safety/ and www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com/health-and-safety/.
Wave Season Offer: Starting Jan. 1, 2021, guests can maximize savings on 2021 and 2022 cruises with AQSC and VCL’s Wave Offers. Guests can save up to $3,000 per stateroom for 2021 voyages and up to $1,200 when booking a cruise for 2022. The offer is accompanied by a Risk-Free Booking policy, which allows guests to cancel their reservation and receive a full refund up to 121 days prior to embarkation or reschedule their reservation for another date in 2021 up to 61 days with no penalty prior to embarkation. The Wave Offer expires Feb. 28, 2021.
AQSC’s and VCL’s all-inclusive fares include a one-night, pre-cruise hotel stay with free ground transfers between the hotel and vessel and “hop-on/hop-off” top-rated shore excursions provided through Shore Excursions of America, part of the Hornblower Company, a complimentary offering available at every port to enhance the guests experience.
In addition, new upgrades and amenities have been added to the guest experience including unlimited complimentary beverages featuring world-class wine lists, top-shelf spirits, local craft beers and specialty coffees from open bars and lounges throughout the vessel, including a smoothie and juice bar every morning. The culinary program has also been refined for an upgraded dining experience to include fresh lobster and USDA prime beef available every night as well as free 24-hour in-room dining. Guests also can enjoy unlimited Wi-Fi access, complimentary use of bicycles and hiking sticks for shore excursions and adventures, as well as on-cruise entertainment and enrichment programs.
New Upgrades & Amenities: With AQSC’s and VCL’s dedication to providing high level, all-inclusive cruise experiences, over the past year both operators have revamped their onboard offerings with new culinary programming, suite amenities and overall hospitality experience. Highlights include: Unlimited beverages including world-class wine lists, top-shelf spirits, local craft beers and specialty coffees from open bars and lounges throughout the vessel; complimentary smoothie and juice bar offered onboard every morning; fresh lobster and USDA Prime Beef available with every dinner
Amenity enhancements include a choice of Clarins, The White Company or royally appointed Floris cleansers and moisturizers; signature in-room culinary treats; $25 shipping credit for suite guests; optional sleep masks and ear plugs
New hospitality features include pre-cruise gift featuring AQSC/VCL logo; handwarmers for cold weather itineraries; cool cloths for hot weather itineraries’ heated towels on the American Queen pool deck; special treats passed out on cruising days; complimentary hiking sticks for inclusive itineraries; eco-friendly shopping bags with AQSC/VCL logo; two senior officers greet guests at the dining room each evening; two senior officers welcome guests returning from premium tours.
New Vessels: These include AQSC’s American Countess, built using the existing hull of former gaming vessel, the Kanesville Queen, the American Countess was lengthened by 60-feet and underwent a total renovation in the Gulf Island Shipyard located in Houma, La.. Her contemporary design will offer plenty of open space for guests to enjoy itineraries along the Tennessee, Ohio, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers. The American Countess features a portside bar with an 80-foot panoramic view, four decks and 123 staterooms in four categories. Following her christening and VIP cruise in the spring of 2021, this paddlewheeler will embark on six- to 15-day itineraries.
Also new is VCL’s Ocean Victory, which will feature 93 suites, some of which will have French balconies or panoramic windows. Onboard venues include two restaurants, in addition to an open-deck dining area, piano bar, library, gym, heated outdoor pool, spa services and Jacuzzi. There’s also an observation and lecture lounges and a dedicated expedition and outdoor adventure launch platform.
After her christening and inaugural sailing in the late spring 2021, Ocean Victory is scheduled to sail on 12- or 13-day itineraries from Vancouver, B.C. to Sitka, Alaska (or reverse), offering views of Firodland Conservancy’s waterfalls dropping into deep fjords, Sawyer and Dawes Glaciers and ice fields at LeConte. The vessel also will sail on a Pacific Paradise cruise from San Diego to San Jose, as well as a one-time itinerary from Vancouver, B.C. to Seattle, Wash.
Steamboat & Victory Academy: AQSC and VCL just launched the combined Steamboat and Victory Academy (SAVA), an advanced travel advisor certification training program that incorporates content form both AQSC and VCL to provide advisors with everything they need to book both operators. The program is made up of 12 on-demand training modules and supplemented with integrated quizzes that ensure travel advisors are prepared to answer any questions about AQSC and VCL cruises and booking procedures.
AQSC 2021 Paddlewheel Collection: The 2021 Paddlewheel Collection highlights the comfort and adventure of close-to-home travel with sailings on AQSC’s U.S.-flagged fleet along American rivers. AQSC will operate four steamboat paddlewheelers in 2021, the American Queen, American Duchess and new American Countess in the American South and Heartland, with the American Empress sailing the Pacific Northwest. From Hannibal, Mo., home of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, to Nottoway, a historic 1850s mansion to the majestic views of the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, AQSC can provide intimate river cruise experiences for guests.
New Itineraries for 2022: Earlier this month AQSC and VCL revealed their collection of new itineraries available beginning in February 2022. Aboard AQSC’s paddlewheelers, cruisers can look forward to “Scenic Gorges in Autumn,” a journey past tree-lined bluffs with fall-foliage from Memphis to Chattanooga (or reverse), a “Roundtrip Cincinnati” route with a Kentucky Derby Experience, and themed Special Edition Voyages like the “Exploring Haunted History” itinerary where guests can learn about the ghostly legends and lore that make history of the Lower Mississippi River come alive and the “Quilting the Fabric of America” itinerary, which features expert quilters leading hands-on quilting sessions. For the AQSC 2021 Paddlewheel Collection and 2022 Itineraries, visit www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com/brochures.
With VCL, guests can sail from Savannah to Halifax highlighting the historic roots of Eastern port cities, from Montreal to Detroit showcasing the best of North America, and from Niagara Falls to charming Canadian cities, and a journey from Boston to tropical Nassau.