American Queen Steamboat Co. is acquiring two vessels — the original Cape Cod Light and Cape May Light — to expand its reach to the Great Lakes and maybe farther.
Terms of the deal for the Bahamas-flagged Victory I and Victory II marketed by Miami-based Victory Cruise Lines were not disclosed. The transaction which includes the Victory brand is expected to close in early January 2019, American Queen said Monday.
Victory will be a sister brand to American Queen, which has concentrated on the inland rivers and Pacific Northwest since 2012 when it and American Cruise Lines brought regular overnight cruising back to the country’s rivers. Itineraries for the new ships are expected to be announced in the next few months, a spokesman said. Victory’s destinations include the Great Lakes, New England, Canada, Cuba and Mexico.
The 202-passenger ships “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,” American Queen chairman John Waggoner said in a statement. Victory CEO Hans Lagerweij said Great Lakes bookings for next year are 35% ahead of 2018.
American Queen is reviewing the management team, the spokesman said.
Based in New Albany, Ind., American Queen Steamboat has built its fleet buying and refurbishing older vessels beginning in 2011 with the purchase of the 236-passenger American Queen from the Maritime Administration. Two years later it bought the 223-passenger American Empress from Marad. Both boats built with Title XI loan guarantees were turned over to the agency after the 2008 collapse of Majestic America Line.
In 2016 American Queen purchased the 280’6″x87’x14′ Iowa casino boat Bettendorf Capri and turned it into the 192-passenger, 314’x100’x14′ riverboat American Duchess launched last year. (The paddlewheel increased the length.)
A fourth vessel, the American Countess, is the 257’x78’x14’ former Kanesville Queen casino boat, which is being converted into a 245-passenger overnight riverboat at Gulf Island Shipyards, Houma, La. Part of the transformation includes the addition of a 60' midbody to the vessel expected to debut in 2020.
The newest acquisitions are 300’x50’x13’ sister ships initially named Cape May Light and Cape Cod Light built by Atlantic Marine in Jacksonville, Fla. for American Classic Voyages Inc. with $78.3 million in Title XI loan guarantees. The Cape May Light entered service in May 2001. The Cape Cod Light was due to be delivered in the second quarter of 2002, but after American Classic’s collapse in October 2001, the two were tied up for years near Jacksonville before being sold in 2008 for about $20 million to a group in the Bahamas and renamed.
Victory Cruise Lines got the Victory I in 2016 and Victory II in 2017. The vessels are owned by Sunstone Ships, Inc.