American Coastal and River Cruising is Resuming

American small ship cruises resume
American Cruise Lines' Independence was the first to resume service (American Cruise Lines)

Published Mar 16, 2021 5:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

The American cruise industry has resumed operations one year after the global cruise industry went into shutdown due to the coronavirus. Two of the small ship operators, American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company, quietly started their first cruises as the companies begin to carefully ramp up operations in anticipation of the summer cruise season.

Unlike the large, international cruise companies that are waiting on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide additional guidance on its framework for the resumption of cruising, the American cruise lines operate ships with passenger capacities below the 250 person threshold established by the CDC. Also, as U.S. companies operating with American crews, the ships are not limited by the Passenger Vessel Services Act or Canada’s current ban on cruise ships.

Both companies tried to resume limited operations in 2020, but were unable to gain cooperation from the destinations or were confronted by resurgences in the virus. However, a year into the pandemic, and with additional information and well-developed health and safety protocols, both companies have now been able to resume operations. Passengers will have to test negative for the virus before boarding and will be required to wear masks and maintain social distances in certain areas of the ships. American Cruise Line also voluntarily chose to limit capacity to 75 percent of normal occupancy on its first cruises. Starting in the summer of 2021, American Queen Steamboat will also begin a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for passengers.

“American Cruise Lines resumed our domestic cruise operations on March 13,” says Alexa Paolella, Public Relations Manager for American Cruise Lines. “With our new protocols in place, we remain dedicated to the safety of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit. We look forward to exploring this beautiful country again aboard our small 100 to 190 passenger modern riverboats and small coastal ships.”

The first cruise, which is currently underway, is aboard American Cruise Lines’ luxury 100-passenger coastal cruise ship the Independence. The ship departed on March 13 from Amelia Island/Jacksonville, Florida and it is operating an 8-day Historic South & Golden Isles itinerary that will end in Charleston, South Carolina. Next week, a second ship, the newly built American Jazz, which is a modern American riverboat, will start the company’s classic Lower Mississippi River cruise departing from New Orleans to Memphis.

American Cruise Lines, which currently has five coastal cruise ships and eight riverboats, plus a new ship due in 2022, plans to slowly expand sailings during April and May to get its fleet in service for the summer. As an American flagged cruise line, they also plan to resume cruises to both Alaska and New England this summer.

On March 15, American Queen Steamboat Company also took its first steps towards resuming operations. Its riverboat the American Duchess departed New Orleans on a private charter cruise to Memphis. The line currently plans to resume operations at the end of March when it will also introduce its newest riverboat the American Countess sailing on the Mississippi. The line plans to resume the operation of its two other ships by the summer of 2021.

Other, American small cruise ship operators, including UnCruise and Alaska Dream Cruises, also plan to operate summer cruise programs.