Apparently, the old-timey vibe of American river cruise vessels is slowly floating away.
From the modern riverboats being promised by American Cruise Lines to American Queen Steamboat Company's (AQSC) recently launched American Duchess, the two main operators of U.S. river vessels are starting to design their riverboats more in line with what you might find in Europe or on the open sea.
Interestingly, the seed for introducing a modern, European-style river cruise ship on U.S. waters was first planted by Viking River Cruises in 2013, when the company teased the idea of bringing a version of its European Longships to the Mississippi. Four years later, the Longships have still not materialized stateside, but a new design ethic has, one that appears to be borrowing from more contemporary cruising notions.
Up until now, U.S. river cruising had a very distinct, vintage charm. Paddlewheelers that had been both retrofitted and built from the ground up were made to feel like they were bringing passengers back in time to a bygone era of American history. From antique-style furnishings to classic artwork and Americana decor, vessels like the American Queen were floating odes to the history and U.S. destinations they were bringing people to.
But perhaps in an effort to grow the market beyond those passengers with a passion for the past, the newer vessels coming online indicate that U.S. river cruise lines see opportunity in creating more modern and comfortable accommodations that will attract cruisers that have become accustomed to sleeker interiors and fresh design by way of European river cruises or ocean cruising. For these passengers, they may not feel the need to eat, live and breathe the destination experience both on and off the ship.
Thus, it would seem that Viking inadvertently kicked off a trend it hasn't yet been able to participate in itself. And clearly, its competitors though that the idea wasn't half bad (perhaps they were already considering it themselves when Viking first announced its intentions). If and when Viking is ready to join the fray, the waters will have already been well warmed up.