River Cruise American Duchess launch delayed until August By Michelle Baran / April 19, 2017 Share 1 The American Duchess will be an all-suite paddlewheeler. -- The American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) has pushed back the scheduled July 1 launch of the 166-passenger American Duchess to August 13. "A key reason for this schedule change is the delayed delivery of the vessel to the shipyard in Louisiana from the Upper Mississippi due to unseasonable high waters," stated AQSC president and COO Ted Sykes. "As the buildout process began, AQSC also saw several opportunities for enhancements that could be undertaken to increase the customer experience and exceed expectations for the August debut."AQSC announced last August that it had purchased a former gaming vessel, with plans to gut the ship and convert it into the all-suite American Duchess. The plan was to rebuild the interior hotel, add a working paddlewheel and transform the vessel into an 83-suite ship, including three 550-square-foot owner's suites and four 550-square-foot loft suites. Other cabin categories will include deluxe suites (450 square feet), outside veranda suites (240 to 330 square feet) and interior staterooms (180 to 200 square feet). The American Duchess lobby. There will be two dining venues, including the Grand Dining Room, which will have open seating and will be able to accommodate all passengers at once.AQSC is working with guests and agents impacted by the changes. Guests booked on any of the affected American Duchess cruises will have the choice of moving to a similar itinerary later in 2017. If they cannot cruise on any of the remaining 2017 departure dates, they will receive a full refund including airfare cancellation costs. If guests would like to move to a similar itinerary later in 2017, they will be offered a free 2018 American Duchess cruise certificate of equal value once they complete the 2017 voyage. Travel agent commissions will be protected for canceled 2017 American Duchess voyages.The company has released a new sailing schedule. www.aqsc.com/contact-us/alerts. "We look forward to unveiling the American Duchess later this summer and promise she will be well worth the wait," Sykes said.The American Duchess will operate year-round on the upper and lower Mississippi. The company's flagship vessel, the American Queen, is entering its sixth season cruising on the Mississippi, and the American Empress in the Pacific Northwest is starting up its fourth season. Compared with those vessels, the American Duchess is being billed as a more upscale offering. Prices for most American Duchess sailings start at $2,999 and top out at $9,499 for one of the three owner's suites.