Episode 20: The return of U.S. river cruising: Interviews from the American Countess

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Big-ship cruising is still grounded in the U.S., but the travel industry took a big step forward this month with the restart of river cruising for the first time since the pandemic began. American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company both launched ships on the Mississippi with -- hopefully -- more to come.

The big news last week was the launch of American Queen's paddlewheeler, the American Countess, a debut that was nearly 12 months overdue. But even the ship's christening in New Orleans wasn't without a hitch: The CDC nearly forced the line to call off the launch over a dispute over the ship's operating certificate (even though American Queen had committed to reduced capacity, the ship can technically carry more people than the maximum currently required by the CDC to sail).

American Queen CEO John Waggoner, far right, claps as his daughter, Angie Hack, prepares to christen the American Countess.
American Queen CEO John Waggoner, far right, claps as his daughter, Angie Hack, prepares to christen the American Countess. Photo Credit: Jeri Clausing

In this episode, senior editor Jeri Clausing and American Queen CEO John Waggoner dialed in from the new American Countess, which operated its inaugural cruise from New Orleans to Memphis last week. Waggoner spoke with Clausing and Folo host Rebecca Tobin about the new ship; how safety protocols for guests work onboard and on land; controversy around vaccine requirements for river cruise guests; and the excitement of getting back on the waters again.

Related reading:

First call, the American Countess

Dispatch, American Countess: Taking protocols in stride

American Countess' debut cruise is back on after CDC dispute is resolved

Domestic river cruise lines get rolling again today

American Queen and Victory cruise lines will require vaccinations

American Queen Steamboat Company

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