American Cruise Lines will acquire four river cruise vessels, including the largest paddlewheel steamboat ever built, from American Queen Voyages, which has ceased operations. 

ACL announced it had purchased the Mississippi-based paddlewheel steamboat American Queen for US$2.15 million (AU$3.3m), plus paddlewheelers American Duchess and American Countess (AU$2.45m each). It has also acquired American Empress (US$400,000, $AU613,000), which cruises the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest.

It agreed to purchase the river ships after American Queen Voyages ceased operations on February 20, and parent company Hornblower Group, filed for bankruptcy soon after.

The sale agreement calls for a purchase price of US$6.3 million (AU$9.66 million) for the four vessels and other assets subject to final approval by the bankruptcy court, but does not include the two coastal cruise ships previously operated by American Queen.

Coastal ships also sold

Confirmation of the sale of American Queen Voyages’ two coastal vessels, Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator, is also pending following their April 1 auction but not to ACL. Both vessels failed to return to the Great Lakes in the 2024 season.

“American Cruise Lines is pleased to be the successful bidder for AQV’s river vessels,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to announcing additional details after this portion of the Hornblower Holdings bankruptcy process concludes.”

The sale will require final approval in a court hearing. Once the process is complete, the total number of vessels in the American Cruise Line fleet will be 25. That consists of river boats, coastal ships and paddlewheelers.

In the past five years, American Cruise Lines has nearly tripled its US fleet. It has also introduced new riverboats on the Mississippi every year since 2018.

The company recently ordered three more ships, including riverboats. That makes five under construction at its affiliated yard, Chesapeake Shipbuilding, in Salisbury, Maryland.

The company’s existing fleet of 19 small ships and riverboats is deployed across more than 140 ports in the US.

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American Cruise Lines will acquire four river cruise vessels from defunct American Queen Voyages.