Victory Cruise Lines, operated by American Queen Steamboat Company, will add a fourth vessel, Ocean Discoverer, to be delivered in September 2022 and to be launched for expedition cruising in Alaska and British Columbia in 2023. The 200-passenger Ocean Discoverer will offer the 12- to 13-day "Discover Beyond Alaska Expedition Adventure Cruise” itineraries currently available for booking on Ocean Victory, the company’s new third ship slated to debut in May 2021.
The addition of two Alaska expedition ships to Victory Cruise Lines’ existing fleet follows its inaugural season in the Great Lakes, Canadian Maritimes, and coastal New England following American Queen Steamboat Company’s acquisition of the company last year. American Queen Steamboat Company, together with Victory Cruise Lines, has grown from one to eight ships in 11 years, with an increase in capacity of 31% in 2020 and 21% increase of capacity in 2021, according to John Waggoner, founder and CEO of American Queen Steamboat Company.
The 8,500-ton, 104.4-meter Ocean Discoverer is part of Sunstone Ships’ INFINITY-class of expedition ships that are “designed for in-depth destination access and exploration, while promoting responsible and sustainable travel.” Identical to Ocean Victory, both ships feature 93 suites, 68 with balconies, nine French balconies and 16 panoramic windows. The ship will have two restaurants, an open-deck dining area, observation and lectures lounges, piano bar, library, gym, spa, swimming pool with a pool bar and jacuzzi. With a crew of 100, it offers a 2-to-1 guest to crew ratio.
Victory Cruise Lines has a partnership with the Department of Marine Biology at California Polytechnic State University, and expert marine biologists, scientists and naturalists will be among the expedition team highlighting immersive shore excursions. The ship will have its own fleet of zodiacs and kayaks for these expeditions. Due to her smaller size and low draw, Ocean Discoverer will be able to dock in many of the smaller ports in Alaska that are not accessible to larger cruise ships, says the company.
Both ships feature a patented X-bow design for “a smoother, more comfortable ride to lower noise and vibration levels and, consequently, seabed disturbance” and Rolls Royce Zero Speed Stabilizers that “reduce rolling.”
Other news for Victory Cruise Lines is the addition of pre-voyage hotel stays for its two ships sailing the Great Lakes, Victory I and Victory II, as well as four new itineraries: 10-day Chicago to Niagara Falls, 9-day Niagara Falls to Chicago, 13-day Chicago to Montreal and reverse, and 10-day Chicago to Niagara Falls/Port Weller.
American Queen Steamboat Company is slated to launch the 245-passenger American Countess next month. She will sail the Lower Mississippi, Upper Mississippi and the Cumberland, Ohio and Tennessee Rivers on 6- to 16-day itineraries. Also new for 2020 are more special interest cruises including “American River BBQ Challenge” on American Queen, American Countess, and American Duchess; “Bourbon to Blues” on American Duchess and American Countess; “American Music Festival” on the American Countess; “American Culinary Experience” on American Duchess; and a wine cruise on American Empress.
American Queen, which was built in 1995, launched American Queen Steamboat Company following its acquisition and complete renovation as the new company’s flagship paddlewheeler in 2012. She will celebrate her 25th birthday in June. Select cruises this summer will include an American Queen birthday party with cake and special presents for guests. The ship receives $3 million in upgrades each year to keep it “stunning,” according to Waggoner.