The demand for European river cruising has
been so robust over the past several years that no matter how many
American tour operators enter the market, there seems to be enough
business to go around.
The popularity of
river cruising was bound to spill over beyond European rivers, and
that puts Ambassadors Cruise Group in an advantageous
Launched as a
business in early 2006, Ambassadors gobbled up practically the
entire U.S. river and coastal cruises segment, purchasing the
American West Steamboat Co. in January and the assets of the Delta
Queen Steamboat Co. in April.
month, Ambassadors agreed to buy Windstar Cruises from Carnival
Corp. for $100 million. The deal is expected to close by
consolidated its base in 2006, Ambassadors is now poised to take
advantage of its position as the clearly dominant player in the
American river cruise market.
With its Majestic
America brand and ships that replicate 19th century paddlewheelers
on rivers that were the highways of early America, Ambassadors is
adapting the river cruise product to the American destination,
offering river cruising as a way to savor the U.S. countryside,
culture and history in comfort and style.
Offering a luxury
product, the company is targeting the over-55 market while trying
to maintain its appeal to younger travelers and families. It is
enhancing the experiential aspects of the trips, including hiking
and biking and opportunities to learn about history and
Line heads into 2007 with seven ships operating in the
"We have a wide
number of choices of types of historical, natural and cultural
experiences," said Joseph Ueberroth, president and CEO of
Ambassadors International, the parent of Ambassadors Cruise Group.
"We have an opportunity to combine a bigger idea of America, an
America-wide idea. The majesty of America includes the scenery, the
natural wonders, the history."
is offering over 250 departures for 2007, with calls at 70 ports in
19 states. The ships offer an experience of the American landscape,
culture and history. Here's a rundown of what the ships will be
doing for 2007:
Majestic America's flagship, began its year March 9 with a
seven-night trip from New Orleans to Memphis. The six-deck,
steam-driven paddlewheeler replica will sail the lower Mississippi
until the end of the year, wrapping up a five-night New Orleans
roundtrip on Dec. 28.
Queen's season will be delayed while the ship gets a second round
of refurbishments, particularly to its galley area. The five-deck
riverboat, modeled after a 19th century sternwheeler but with a
modern propulsion system, will begin its season with a seven-night
sailing on the Mississippi from St. Louis to St. Paul, Minn., on
Sept. 1. It will wind up its season with a seven-night New Orleans
roundtrip ending Nov. 23.
The Delta Queen,
which was built in 1926 with four decks of teak and Tiffany-style
stained-glass windows, will begin its season with a seven-night New
Orleans roundtrip on March 17. Its last departure will be Nov.
The Empress of
the North, a diesel-propelled riverboat designed to look like a
paddlewheeler with a 19th century Russian decor, kicked off its
season with a seven-night Portland roundtrip on Feb. 18. It will
sail the Columbia, Snake and Willamette rivers through April, then
move to Alaskan coastal waters from May 12 through September. It
then will return to Portland itineraries through the end of the
The Contessa will
spend its entire season in Alaskan coastal waters beginning May 13
with a seven-night trip from Ketchikan to Sitka. Its last departure
will be Sept. 23.
Queen will embark on its first sailing on April 28. It will sail
seven-night roundtrips from Portland on the Columbia, Snake and
Willamette rivers through October.
The Queen of the
West will sail seven-night Portland roundtrips on the Columbia,
Snake and Willamette rivers beginning April 1. Its last departure
will be Dec. 28.
Founded in 1995,
American West Steamboat Co. had operated itineraries on the
Columbia and Snake rivers, Alaska's Inside Passage, British
Columbia and Washington's Puget Sound with an emphasis on
historical and natural features of the landscape. Its two vessels,
the 231-passenger Empress of the North and the 150-passenger Queen
of the West, both newly refurbished, are now part of Majestic
purchased the Delta Queen brand, current and past passenger lists,
miscellaneous operational property and three ships from the Delta
Queen Steamboat Co. The ships are the 436-passenger American Queen,
built in 1995; the 412-passenger Mississippi Queen, built in 1976;
and the 174-passenger Delta Queen, launched in 1927 and listed on
the National Register of Historic Places.
Ambassadors acquired the 49-passenger Executive Explorer and in
October completed the purchase of the Columbia Queen.
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