After months of speculation, the American Queen Voyages ceased operations due to “unforeseen circumstances and the inability to obtain sufficient capital at a commercially reasonable rate to continue operations.’’

Staff working at its New Orleans and Vancouver offices were told their positions have been terminated.

But its Aussie operations will continue.

Sister company Journey Beyond, which operates train journeys in Australia. confirmed it will “return to being a freestanding company” after the cessation of trade.

Both businesses were part of US-based Hornblower Group.

Journey Beyond CEO Chris Tallent said the Australian business “intends to formally separate from the Hornblower Group, and whilst it remains subject to a number of consents and approvals.”

Journey Beyond will assist any booked passengers.

American Queen has cancelled all future cruises and customers can expect to get refunds for their cancelled voyages.

How many ships owned by AQV

American Queen Voyages has a fleet of four river ships including the iconic American Queen, the largest paddlewheel steamboat ever built, American Countess and American Duchess which sailed the Mississippi and American Empress which cruised on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The company also operated two coastal ships, Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator on the Great Lakes. They were withdrawn from the end of the 2023 season and have been put up for sale.

American Queen main deck
American Queen main deck

History of the AQV

The American Queen embodied the heartland and legacy of Mark Twain, as it has been designed to celebrate the rich tradition of exploration in the rivers in the West.

Founded by John Waggoner who bought the 436-passenger riverboat, American Queen from the United States Maritime Administration and formed the Great American Steamboat Co to resuscitate travel on US rivers with an all-American crew in 2011.  He then built American Duchess and American Countess from the hulls of former casino boats.

Inside American Queen
Inside American Queen

Who founded AQV?

In 2019, AQV bought two coastal ships from Victory Cruise Lines and in 2022, expedition cruising was added with Ocean Victory heading to Alaska.

After operating the company for 10 years, it was rebranded as American Queen Voyages in 2021.  Besides cruising on all seven of America’s rivers, the company started expeditions to Alaska, the Canadian Inside Passage, the Mexican Riviera and Costa Rica.

A few years ago, private equity firm Crestview Partners acquired Hornblower Group, parent of American Queen Voyages and Mr Waggoner bowed out.

The cruise business struggled to recover from the pandemic.

Hornblower Group also owns Australian-based Journey Beyond which operates interstate tourism trains.