Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

The Covid-19 pandemic has halted most river cruise sailings so far this year, but it doesn't seem to be impacting the lines' longer-term growth plans.

This month, Viking announced it will add a new boat on the Mekong, the Viking Saigon, next summer. That's in addition to its planned debut in the United States with the Viking Mississippi in 2022.

American Cruise Lines CEO Charles Robertson, meantime, said that despite the fact that recent coronavirus surges have basically put them in a holding pattern this year, his confidence in demand for 2021 and beyond remains strong.

The company's shipyard, he said, remains fully operational, and they are on track for on-time delivery this September of the American Jazz and next year's launch of the American Melody and one more yet-to-be-named ship, which will be the third, fourth and fifth in the company's modern riverboat series.

In Europe, AmaWaterways, Amadeus River Cruises and Emerald Waterways said they each still have planned deliveries of new ships next year. Additionally, AmaWaterways will add a ship on the Nile

Those are in addition to a number of new ships that were set for delivery this year across the United States, Europe and the Nile.

Amadeus, which is based in Germany, was finally able to christen its newest ship this week. The company's executive vice president, Marcus Leskovar, said the Amadeus Imperial will be among eight of the company's 18 ships sailing in Europe despite the ban on American travelers.

But the travel shutdown has put on hold the launch of many others, including AmaWaterways' new ship, the AmaSiena; two new Uniworld ships, the S.S. Sao Gabriel n Portugal and the S.S. Sphinx on the Nile; and Avalon's newest Panorama Suites ship, the Avalon View. Viking was set to launch six new ships in Europe this year and one on the Nile.

Domestically, the American Queen Steamboat Co. will launch its fourth paddlewheeler, the American Countess, in late August after initially planning to introduce the ship in April.

Meantime, when and if other river lines resume sailings this year remains a big question mark.

While many sailings are only officially on hold through the end of August or September, those dates will likely be pushed back again. Emerald Waterways said this week that it expects to cancel all of its Europe sailings through the end of October.

And despite early optimism of a summer boom in domestic travel, the recent surge in U.S. cases has put the rest of the summer in doubt.

"It seems like every day, instead of getting one step closer to the end, we take two steps back," said Robertson.

This story has been updated to add that Emerald Waterways also has new ship planned for 2021.


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