This cruise line is going to modernize its iconic paddlewheel ships

Sep 28, 2021

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American Cruise Lines will renovate its four classic river paddlewheel ships to bring them more in line with the brand’s modern river vessels following the successful debut of new ship American Melody in August. The four vessels will also be renamed.

“American Melody’s extraordinary reception, particularly by our loyalty program members, has inspired us to bring the same new aesthetic to our entire paddlewheel fleet,” said Charles B. Robertson, president and CEO of American Cruise Lines, in a press release.

Rendering of revamped Magnolia Lounge on American Cruise Lines’ paddlewheel riverboat (Rendering courtesy of American Cruise Lines)

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During a press conference at Seatrade Cruise Global, the cruise industry’s annual conference, which is taking place this week in Miami, Robertson said American Pride will retain its name, but Queen of the Mississippi, Queen of the West and America will be renamed American Heritage, American West and American Splendor, respectively.

“With the design package, we’re also going to rename the boats,” Robertson said. “They’re coming into the new standard that we want the fleet to be in, and so they should have American names that match the fleet and align with it…. And so, with that, we’ll have a completely American fleet of ships that all share the same name, same brand and same design aesthetic. That will all go into effect for next year.”

Additionally, the ships — all of which are currently sailing with passengers onboard — will receive refreshed interiors to match those found on ACL’s modern river ships, boasting designs by Miami-based Studio DADO, which focus on modern elegance. Dining rooms, lounges and cabins will all receive updated decor, carpeting, furniture, linens and color schemes.

Rendering of revamped suite on American Cruise Lines’ paddlewheel riverboat (Rendering courtesy of American Cruise Lines)

The vessels will enter dry-dock at the line’s own shipyard in Maryland on a staggered basis, starting in November, with the upgrades slated for completion in March of 2022.

ACL’s two Mississippi River paddlewheelers, American Splendor and American Heritage, will focus on music, ranging from jazz and blues to country and rock ‘n’ roll, as well as celebrated literary figures, such as Mark Twain. The line’s two Columbia and Snake River paddlewheelers, American Pride and American West, will feature Western and Native American themes.

American Cruise Lines plans to begin building two new ships each year as part of a six-part series. That will bring the total number of ships in the fleet to 15, with American Symphony and American Serenade debuting in 2022.

At present, the line has 13 vessels sailing in 31 states on both coasts. They include four paddlewheelers spread among the Mississippi, Colombia and Snake Rivers; modern riverboats plying the Colombia and Snake rivers; and coastal ships that sail along the east and northwest coasts and in Alaska.

Rendering of revamped sun deck on American Cruise Lines’ paddlewheel riverboat (Rendering courtesy of American Cruise Lines)

Currently, the line is requiring that all passengers be antigen tested at the pier before they’re allowed to board, but Robertson said some states have further requirements, such as PCR testing in Washington. If anyone onboard tests positive for COVID-19, they will quarantine onboard.

“It is a challenge to find American mariners to serve onboard,” Robertson said, when asked if the line is having trouble recruiting U.S. workers. He explained that, although the line is required by law to hire American crew and officers, it’s also a large part of the heritage on which the company was founded.

Featured photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines.

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