River cruising takes off on U.S. inland waters 

Written by Heather Ervin
American Song river cruise ship travels down the Snake River.

American Song river cruise ship travels down the Snake River. (Credit: American Cruise Lines)

American river cruising continues to take off with new ships coming on line for service along inland and intracoastal rivers throughout the country. One leading line, Guildford, Conn.-based American Cruise Lines has three new ships, 10 new itineraries and 21 new U.S. ports being visiting by its cruise ships in 2023 alone.  

The sixth ship in the sister series, the American Serenade, will begin cruising on the Mississippi River this April.  

American Cruise Lines also has two small new ships (coastal cats) coming out this year. The American Eagle will debut in August and the American Glory in October. These ships are the first in a 12-ship series of coastal cats for American Cruise Lines known as Project Blue.  

“2023 is poised to be the most exciting cruise season ever for American Cruise Lines,” said Charles Robertson, president and CEO of American Cruise Lines. “More small ships exploring in more states than ever before is the best way that I can think of to celebrate 50 years cruising American’s waterways.” 

In total, American Cruise Lines has 17 small ships (all accommodating just 90-180 passengers) cruising/exploring in 35 states this year (both U.S. coasts and all the rivers in between). 

In late January, American Cruise Lines reported that its modern riverboat American Jazz was repositioning from the Mississippi River to the West Coast for new California river cruises that are the first of their kind since the 1940s. 

Taking it through the Panama Canal, American Jazz’s repositioning voyage followed a similar route to that taken by the historic U.S. mail ships of the Gold Rush era that carried passengers, mail, and gold between the East and West coasts. 

The expert nautical team aboard the ship was supported each day of the voyage by the company’s shoreside operations team. Throughout the journey, American’s crew and the shoreside team closely monitored vessel systems, weather forecasts, and voyage progress. 

American Jazz’s arrival to San Francisco Bay heralds a historic development in U.S. river cruising, as it is the first U.S. built riverboat to offer overnight cruises throughout the Bay and California Delta in over 80 years. 

American Jazz (Credit: American Cruise Lines)

American Jazz embarked along the line’s first eight-day San Francisco Bay cruise on February 24. The new river cruises will sail San Francisco Bay and Wine Country: cruising the Napa River, Sacramento River, and San Joaquin River. 

“Exploring San Francisco Bay and the California Delta by U.S. riverboat is a momentous occasion for domestic river cruising and another first for American Cruise Lines,” said Robertson. “We are proud to provide this new opportunity for our guests to experience the joys of cruising close to home, as they discover yet another beautiful area of the country by riverboat. American continues to expand the possibilities for exceptional domestic small ship cruises by introducing brand new U.S. flagged riverboats and small cruise ships each year.” 

American Cruise Lines offered the eight-day San Francisco Bay itinerary, roundtrip from San Francisco, in February and again this month, and then again in November and December. 

Last March, Chesapeake Shipbuilding’s Salisbury, Md., shipyard launched American Symphony, the fifth vessel in American Cruise Lines modern riverboat class. 

American Symphony began cruising the Mississippi River in August 2022.  

The ship features the same sophisticated elegant design and state-of-the-art features showcased aboard 2021 sister ship American Melody. These include the series’ hallmark opening bow and retractable gangway. 

Accommodating 175-passengers in 100% balcony staterooms, American Symphony has five decks and amenities that include a four-story glass atrium, indoor and outdoor dining venues, large fitness centers, multiple spacious lounges, and a spectacular top deck showcasing a Skywalk and an ellipse cutout cantilevered over the ship’s fourth deck café below. 

Immediately after the launch, the new riverboat was positioned in Chesapeake Shipbuilding’s East Outfitting Basin where it received its upper decks and outfitting. 

Chesapeake Shipbuilding is also designing and building the Project Blue catamaran cruise ships—the largest order for U.S.-built cruise ships in decades—for American Cruise Lines. 

Viking Mississippi makes its debut 

Viking Mississippi (Credit: Viking River Cruises)

This past fall, Viking River Cruises’ much-anticipated Jones Act compliant river cruise ship Viking Mississippi made its inaugural cruise and attracting much local media attention along the way. 

Floated out from Edison Chouest Offshore’s LaShip shipyard in Houma, La., last March, the 450 foot long, 75-foot beam vessel hosts 386 guests in 193 all outside staterooms and offers multiple passenger amenities. The five-deck river cruise ship is inspired by Viking’s award-winning river and ocean ships and features a Scandinavian design, as well as public spaces that will be familiar to Viking guests but reimagined for Mississippi River voyages. 

The Viking Mississippi is equipped with a variety of measures to maximize energy efficiency and emissions—including a diesel-electric propulsion system comprised of eight CAT C32 EPA Tier 4 diesel engines, each powering a 940 eKw water cooled generator; each engine/generator unit is individually mounted on a specially designed double raft isolation system that produces a remarkably quiet and smooth ride. 

Propulsion power is provided by Voith 6-bladed propulsion thrusters driven by permanent magnet electric motors as are the pump jet bow thrusters. 

Viking is hoping that the vessel will tempt guests from its international customer base, accustomed to its European Longship river cruises, to see how the Mississippi River stacks up against rivers such as the Rhine. 

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