While much attention has been focused on the restart of the ocean cruise business from the U.S. and around the world, changes have been happening in the 'inland' U.S. cruise business as well.
One of the major operators has combined and rebranded three separate operations into one, while the largest operator is upgrading significant parts of its fleet. Both are driven by the growing popularity of river and lake cruising, and the recent entry of an industry heavyweight, Viking, into U.S. waters.
American Queen Steamboat and Victory Voyages, both owned by the Hornblower group of tour companies, has been combined into a single company with three lines: River, Lakes & Ocean and Expedition, all under the combined name American Queen Voyages.
The River division will continue with four 'paddlewheel' style boats on the Mississippi system and Northwest rivers. The Lakes & Ocean division will operate the former Victory ships Victory I and Victory II, now renamed Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator on the Great Lakes, the Eastern Seaboard and to Mexico. The Expedition group will receive two new ships next year and the year after and will operate mainly in Alaska waters.
Meanwhile, its big competitor, American Cruise Lines, is renovating and renaming its paddlewheel boats, two of which work the Mississippi and two the Northwestern Snake and Columbia rivers. ACL has stopped developing new paddlewheelers; its more recent ships have been styled along the lines of European river cruisers. ACL also has a number of coastal and lake routes.