American Queen Steamboat Co. (AQSC) has suspended cruises through year’s end and earlier notified states of plans to lay off 250 crew starting Sept. 24 as fallout from the coronavirus pandemic persists for the passenger vessel industry

The New Albany, Ind.-based overnight cruise operator posted on its site that none of its four vessels, including the new American Countess, would be sailing on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Columbia or Snake rivers through Dec. 31.

“While extending our suspensions through the remainder of the 2020 season was a difficult decision, it was made with the well-being of our guests, crew and partners top of mind and has allowed our entire focus to be directed to creating the safest product possible for the 2021 season,” the company said. “As we continue to monitor and assess the situation, we are confident that when we do resume operations in 2021, the enhanced health and safety procedures that we have put into place will allow our guests to sail with confidence.”

In WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) notices (scroll down to July to get the pdf of American Queen's notice) to Indiana and several other states, the company said it planned to permanently lay off 250 crew from the American Queen and American Empress beginning around Sept. 24.

“We are taking this action because of Covid-19-related business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable,” Christina Hobbs, AQSC’s vice president of human resources said in the notice. “We did not foresee how significantly and for how long a time the pandemic and related governmental orders would impact our business.”

They alerted the states as soon as practical, she said, “taking into account the great difficulties we face in projecting staffing needs under these unprecedented circumstances.”

Passenger vessel operators have been dealing with a number of new regulations at every level of government from cities and states to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those that haven’t been shut down completely by the pandemic are trying to survive a dramatic drop in business.

Dale DuPont has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1998. She has worked at daily and weekly newspapers in Texas, Maryland, and most recently as a business writer and editor at The Miami Herald, covering the cruise, marine and other industries. She and her husband once owned a weekly newspaper in Cooperstown, N.Y., across the alley from the Baseball Hall of Fame. A South Florida resident, she enjoys sailing on Biscayne Bay, except in hurricane season.