ACL to build more passenger vessels

Citing strong demand, American Cruise Lines (ACL) said in early November that it plans on adding more new passenger vessels to its fleet.

The Guilford, Conn., company would not provide the exact number of new U.S.-flagged vessels it plans to construct at its ChesapeakeShipbuilding Corp., Salisbury, Md. 

 ACL, which currently operates six ships, said it would provide more details later this year. 

The company’s newest vessel, the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi, along with American Queen Steamboat Co.’s 460-passenger AmericanQueen debuted last year, marking a return to regular overnight journeys on the inland rivers. ACL said passenger growth between November 2012 and November 2013 was 25 percent.

ACL will announce itineraries and begin taking bookings early next year for its second riverboat — 280’×54’×8′ Hull 104 — currently underway at Chesapeake Shipbuilding.

“The demand for riverboat vacations is higher than it has ever been,” said Charles Robertson, owner of ACL and Chesapeake Shipbuilding. He added that ACL “remains poised for continued expansion and success with its newbuilding program.” 

Cruise Lines International Association statistics show river cruise demand has risen 10 percent in the past five years compared to 7 percent annual passenger growth for cruising overall. 

American Queen Steamboat also is expanding with the recent purchase of the Empress of the North from the Maritime Administration. Based in Portland, Ore., the 360′, 223-passenger vessel is expected to be renamed American Empress and resume sailing in the Pacific Northwest next spring. 

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