American Cruise Lines has just announced that it is expending its fleet with four new ships. It only has six now - so that is a significant investment.
This, to me, represents a big change in US river cruising. It has exploded in Europe, but here in the US it has been revived, but could still be more popular.
I think having the right ships will make it so. I love American Queen, but she is a rather slow boat. The Queen of the Mississippi (ACL) is a newer and faster boat, and I assume the new ones will be the same.
Don't get me wrong, the American Queen is a BEAUTIFUL boat - really a "cruise ship" in my mind that happens to run on a river. It is huge with a dramatic 2-story dining room, for example. But the American cruise line boats are a little nicer, bigger rooms & beds, a little more upscale but less authentic.
What is your feeling about river cruising in the U.S.?
It is certainly a largely untapped market and venue. Same for the Great Lakes, where there would be more latitude for deeper draft vessels although ports might be an issue.
My thinking is that river cruises in the U.S. are too caught up in the nostalgia of the steamboat and they need to get past that and into more modern designs for the boats. They would still be constrained by needing shallow drafts and being able to fit in the various locks, but these are not show stoppers to naval architects and ship builders.
The per diems are a problem though, as far as being able to attract a broader market. The typical fare being $3000 to $4000 per person for the cheapest cabins is going to limit the audience. Of course we are dealing with U.S. flagged ships, crews, regulations, and that is a large part of the high costs. And while mom and dad with the 2.4 kids isn't the target audience, they also shouldn't be ignored as potential guests.
ACL is making a bold move with their fleet expansion. I hope they can fill their cruises. Personally I would like to try their Hudson River and New England itineraries. I grew up in the Hudson Valley so the thought of being on a luxury river cruise that stops at my old home town is intriguing.
The fares with Blount are certainly easier on the bank account. Roughly half of what ACL is charging day for day. That is an interesting itinerary, going from NYC and all the way into the St. Lawrence and then Montreal (twice) in 14 days.