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American Queen Voyages will leave the Great Lakes, sell two ships

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American Queen Voyages plans to sell the 202-passenger sister vessels Ocean Victory and, here, Ocean Navigator
In a strategic decision to focus on river cruises, American Queen Voyages will exit the Great Lakes in 2024 and sell Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator.

All current published voyages will continue to operate as planned through November 2023.

Other deployment changes

On Tuesday, AQV announced other deployment changes and updates to commence in early 2024 aboard three of its river vessels. American Duchess was not mentioned in the river lineup.

Ocean Victory returning to Alaska

Expedition ship Ocean Victory, which AQV charters for half the year from SunStone Maritime Group, will return to Alaska for its third season in 2024. The program includes Zodiac exploration and kayak excursions led by a team of naturalists and field guides in cooperation with California Polytechnic State University.

'Our primary commitment is to deliver a best-in-class cruise vacation with a focus on immersive culinary and destination experiences,' AQV President Cindy D’Aoust said. 'Our customers consistently tell us our US river itineraries are exceptional and demonstrate this by returning again and again.'

The company said a McKinsey market survey determined AQV has the highest brand affinity among US river operators.

'All of our focus is being put into updating and enhancing our popular river product with strategic partnerships and an elevated culinary program, which we know have been very well received,' D’Aoust said.

Revised river schedule

AQV will begin the 2024 season on the Lower Mississippi with its 417-passenger American Queen, the largest paddlewheel steamboat ever built. Among its itineraries will be some new three- and four-day cruises.

American Queen also will operate a 16-day journey from the Mississippi's headwaters in Minnesota all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The 245-passenger American Countess will cruise the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. New experiential voyages include a bourbon-themed cruise with noted food and spirits experts, including Dickie Brennan, chef-owner of the legendary Bourbon House in New Orleans.

The 221-passenger American Empress will continue sailing the Snake and Columbia rivers of the Pacific Northwest.

Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator history

AQV had acquired the 202-passenger Victory I and Victory II in early 2019. Out of service during the pandemic, they were refurbished, renamed Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator as part of the company's 2021 rebranding and resumed operations last year.

Their 2024 programs had not been published.

The ships were built in the US in the early 2000s for Delta Queen Coastal Voyages as Cape May Light and Cape Cod Light. Only Cape May Light, completed in 2001, operated before the company's post-9/11 collapse. The vessels were reflagged to the Bahamas and sailed under several names including, in Cape May Light's case, as Saint Laurent for the short-lived Haimark Line, before going to the also short-lived Victory Cruise Lines prior to AQV.