American Empress resumes Pacific Northwest river cruises

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The American Empress set sail on June 14 with all guests and crew fully vaccinated.
The American Empress set sail on June 14 with all guests and crew fully vaccinated. Photo Credit: American Queen Steamboat Company

American Queen Steamboat Company on Monday launched its first post-pandemic river cruise in the Pacific Northwest.

The company said the American Empress set sail on its Pacific Northwest Splendor itinerary along the Columbia and Snake rivers between Spokane, Wash., and Portland, Ore.

Besides being the first sailing for the company in the region since the pandemic, AQSC said it was its first overnight river cruise to set sail with all guests and crew fully vaccinated.

The company has been sailing the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers since mid-March, with pre-sailing Covid-19 testing for guests. But its companywide mandate that all guests be vaccinated doesn't take effect until July 1.

The company enacted the vaccine mandate early for the Pacific Northwest, as Washington state requires that 95% of all river cruise passengers and crew be vaccinated. The company said it is also still requiring pre-sailing Covid tests for the Pacific Northwest sailings.

"Today is an important milestone for both American Queen Steamboat Company and Pacific Northwest tourism as we restart operations in the region and cruisers can once again relish the majestic beauty of the Columbia and Snake rivers," said AQSC president Shawn Bierdz. "We look forward to safely welcoming guests on board the American Empress to sail through this diverse environment and discover the communities that make it such a unique travel experience."

American Cruise Lines has been sailing the Pacific Northwest with the American Song and American Harmony since early May, but stops initially were limited to Oregon because of tighter Covid-19 restrictions in Washington state. Washington opened to ships with vaccinated  passengers and crew in mid-May. ACL said it resumed sailings to both states at the end of May. 
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Correction: Washington state requires that 95% of all river cruise passengers and crew be vaccinated. A previous version of this report incorrectly stated that Washington requires all onboard to be vaccinated.

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