Sign Up for Our Monthly River Cruise Newsletter
American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) is set to dramatically expand its horizons, adding Great Lakes sailings to its river cruises, according to a newly announced acquisition. The line will take over Victory I and Victory II from Sunstone Ships, Inc. and, in turn, the Victory Cruise Lines brand.
The deal is expected to be finalized in January 2019 to begin operating the pair of 5,000-ton, 202-guest sister ships. They will join the current fleet of American Duchess, American Empress and American Queen, as well as the upcoming 2020 American Countess.
“We are pleased to purchase the Victory I and Victory II, which will fuel the continued success and growth of American Queen Steamboat Company,” said John Waggoner, chairman and CEO of AQSC. “We look forward to working closely with Victory Cruise Lines’ new and existing travel partners. These vessels enable us to provide guests with more diverse cruising options particularly in the Great Lakes, a region that our customers have been requesting for years.”
In fact, members of the travel agent community, such as Danny Genung, CEO of Harr Travel, are excited by future prospects.
“I think the acquisition is a good thing and will allow them to have a diversity of products to cross sell like American Cruise Lines,” he said, referring to Pearl Seas Cruises, the competitor’s sister brand.
Additional details are anticipated in the coming months, but Gary Seabrook, vice president of operations of AQSC, shared some insight during a meeting with TravelAge West.
What new opportunities have resulted from the Victory Cruise Lines acquisition?We wanted to operate cruise vessels on the Great Lakes for the longest time. It just seemed to be a logical expansion, and it’s what our customers keep requesting when we discuss additional itineraries. They really want to go there. So, we’ve been looking for avenues: through construction, modification of other existing boats and acquisitions. And this just wound up being the best way to go
What about itineraries in the Great Lakes? Will Victory’s new Yucatan Peninsula itinerary be cut?Bookings are very strong for the Great Lakes itineraries. We expect that both the Victory I and Victory II will be entirely sold out for the 2019 cruising season. We are currently evaluating the Mexico itineraries.
Will anything need to be reconciled between American Queen Steamboat Company’s domestic-flagged fleets and Victory Cruise Lines’ foreign-flagged fleets, or will they coexist harmoniously?HMS Global Maritime, our parent company, has operated foreign-flagged vessels, so this is not new to us as a company. We understand the compliance issues of operating foreign-flagged vessels. We’ve worked on the Great Lakes, so there aren’t a lot of mysteries. Some approaches are going to have to be a little bit different. At the end of the day, the U.S. Coast Guard has been working for years to try to follow the IMO model as much as they reasonably can. So, the gap between the two operating modalities has been diminished.
What about the ships made you have your eye on Victory's fleet?They were built by the same company that owns some of our other vessels, and we learned a lot about them. We learned what was good and where we could make improvements. And when they became available, we began to explore them and spend some time crawling through them and playing with them, planning to determine whether we could do something that would be useful for us and marketable.
It just seemed to be a logical expansion, and it’s what our customers keep requesting when we discuss additional itineraries.
Opportunities came and went doing other things at various times, and they transitioned out of the U.S. to Bahamian registry. So, we’ve been out visiting them and seeing what’s been changed.
AQSC CEO John Waggoner is a very patient and persistent man. He’s a finance guy as well as a marine guy, so he knows to watch and wait. He knows that you don’t jump at the wrong time or commit money at the wrong time. He’s very careful in his approach to these things. So, for 12 to 15 years, he had one eye on this space to see when the right time might come. And all the stars seem to have aligned.
Is the 2021 Ocean Victory newbuild also being effectively acquired?We are currently evaluating this opportunity.
The DetailsAmerican Queen Steamboat Companywww.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com