Two years after announcing plans to develop a fleet of modern riverboats for U.S. rivers, American Cruise Lines (ACL) on Wednesday revealed details and a rendering of the first vessel in the new series, slated to begin passenger service in 2018.

ACL said the 200-passenger vessel will be the first of a new class of five modern riverboats and will feature "the modern styling of a European riverboat."

The 345-foot vessel will have what the company is claiming will be the largest staterooms in the United States, with private balconies and hotel-size bathrooms (stateroom bathrooms on river cruise vessels are often a bit cramped due to lack of onboard space).

"American Cruise Lines has consistently pursued its newbuild program, as it considers refurbished boats unable to meet the modern expectations of today's river cruise passengers," said Timothy Beebe, ACL's vice president.

The company's main competitor in U.S. river cruising is American Queen Steamboat Company, which owns a fleet of three refurbished riverboats.

Construction has begun on ACL's first modern riverboat at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md.

ACL first unveiled its plans to build a fleet of modern vessels in 2015. Back then, the company said the first of those new ships would begin sailing in 2017, a date that has now been pushed back to next year. ACL explained that it decided to advance construction on a new coastal cruise ship before building the first of the modern riverboats, in order to accommodate demand for the coastal cruiser.

While ACL has not said where the first of the modern riverboats will sail, two years ago the company said it was eyeing numerous inland waterways for potential development, including some that haven't had overnight passenger cruising in a very long time, if ever.

The list the company provided included the Sacramento River, San Joaquin River, Missouri River, Des Moines River, Wabash River, Illinois River, Apalachicola River, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Mid-Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Erie Canal, Hudson River, Oswego Canal, Potomac River and Alaska's Inside Passage.

To date, ACL has already built three Mississippi paddlewheelers from the ground up, the most recent of which was the 185-passenger America, which launched last year.

ACL also owns and operates the refurbished Columbia River paddlewheeler Queen of the West, as well as three yacht-style coastal cruisers: the Independence, American Star, American Spirit.

In addition to the new class of modern riverboats, ACL is in the process building two coastal cruisers at Chesapeake Shipbuilding: the 170-passenger American Constellation, scheduled to begin cruising this May, and its sister ship, which will begin cruising in 2018.
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Correction and clarification: ACL has three yacht-style cruisers. A previous version of this report said the company had four. Also, ACL provided an explanation for why it postponed the construction of modern riverboats after the initial report was published.

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