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American Cruise Lines is bringing the first modern-style design in river vessels in America with its 184-passenger American Song. The ship debuts on the Mississippi in October before it heads west to the Columbia and Snake rivers for 2019. The vessel is the first in the line’s five-ship Modern Riverboat Series, and work has already begun on the second ship, which will debut next summer.
“They are unlike anything other cruise companies are doing and the interest has been phenomenal,” said Timothy J. Beebe, vice president of American Cruise Lines.
American Song departs from the steamboat era paddlewheel ship design that is traditional on American rivers, moving to a contemporary look combining aspects of river cruise ships on the Yangtze River (glass and atriums) and in Europe (sleek, elongated design).
Taking advantage of the more generous size limitations on major U.S. rivers compared to European waterways, Song is 60 feet wide, with six big lounges, a four-story glass atrium, a putting green and spaces for bocce and croquet on the top deck.
All staterooms have private balconies, including solo accommodations at 250 square feet. Other categories range from 304 to 328 square feet, while veranda suites are 405 square feet and owner's suites are 445 square feet. The two Grand Suites are each 900 square feet.
Song will have 360-degree azimuthing forward and aft propellers that give the ship increased ability to maneuver. American describes the ship as wider, faster and quieter than any other river cruise ship and as the most environmentally-friendly ship in the industry.
The vessel is being built by Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland. Chesapeake Shipbuilding is owned and operated by the same parent company as the cruise line — a key advantage that has enabled American to be first to change its U.S. riverboat design.
For some years, Viking River Cruises has proposed an adapted version of its modern Longship design for the Mississippi, but they ran up against the requirement that ships operating only in the U.S. must be built in American shipyards, a very expensive proposition unless the cruise line owns the shipyard.
The modern ship fleet is only part of American’s rapid growth. On April 18, the company’s new American Constitution, designed for coastal cruising, will make its inaugural cruise on Chesapeake Bay with a new American Revolution itinerary. Sailing roundtrip from Baltimore, the 10-day cruise calls in ports that have shaped American history: Norfolk, Williamsburg, Mt. Vernon and Yorktown, Virginia.; Washington, D.C.; and Cambridge, St. Michaels, Annapolis and Chestertown, Maryland. The newbuild is the sister of American Constellation, which debuted last year.