New American Cruise Lines modern riverboat on the Mississippi River. (Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines)
Passenger Vessels

American Cruise Lines Continues Rapid Growth

American Cruise Lines (ACL), a Guilford, Conn.-based operator of inland and coastal passenger cruises in the United States, debuted two new vessels in its American riverboat line over the past couple of months. The company’s fleet of American riverboats now stands at six, with all the vessels built at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md.

ACL christened the American Serenade April 23 on the bank of the Mississippi River in Vidalia, La. The christening for the American Jazz followed one week later on the Snake River in Clarkston, Wash.

Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.) served as the godmother for the American Serenade and officially christened the vessel into the ACL fleet. Stacia Morin, CEO of New Perce Tourism and a citizen of the Nimíipuu Nation, was godmother for the American Jazz and christened that vessel.

“The two christenings, one in a desert canyon and one on the bayou, show the incredible breadth of river cruise options in the USA,” ACL President and CEO Charles Robertson said. “They also show the growth of American Cruise Lines and the range of places that we explore. We are so grateful to the communities who welcome us and look forward to a strong future together as we cruise the Snake and Mississippi rivers.”

ACL specializes in smaller cruise ships ranging from 90 to 180 passengers. By the end of the year, the company plans to have 17 ships in service operating in 35 states, with more to come.

“Overall, the demand for U.S. riverboat and small ship cruises has been tremendous,” said Alexa Paolella, public relations manager for ACL. “By 2027, we’ll have almost 27 ships.”

The American Serenade was christened April 23 in Vidalia, La. (Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines)
The American Serenade was christened April 23 in Vidalia, La. (Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines)

Each new riverboat offers accommodations for 180 passengers, 900-square-foot suites with wrap-around balconies, multiple dining and lounge options, a four-story glass atrium in the center of the ship and a distinctive flip-up bow with a retractable gangway for bow landings.

Besides the company’s American riverboat line, ACL is also building a 12-vessel series of “Coastal Cats,” catamaran-style ships designed to “go anywhere,” in accordance with American Cruise Lines’ mission of “cruising close to home.” Each Coastal Cat will have room for 100 passengers and will have the ability to tour the nation’s rivers, lakes, bays and protected coastlines. ACL expects to debut the first two Coastal Cats, the American Eagle and American Glory, by the end of the year.

On the technical side, all of ACL’s American riverboats feature Veth by Twin Disc main propulsion thrusters and bow thrusters from Sewart. The forthcoming Coastal Cats will also be equipped with Veth thrusters from Sewart.

New Itineraries

In addition to its new vessels, American Cruise Lines continues to add new—and longer—itineraries to its lineup.

In March, ACL announced, starting next year, the launch of a 60-day river cruise that will explore 20 states on both coasts and in the American heartland. Then, in May, the company announced another extended itinerary, also debuting next year: a 35-day tour of Civil War battlefields.

The Civil War-focused cruise will depart from New Orleans on May 4, 2024, and conclude in Gettysburg, Pa., on June 6, with each day highlighting historic battlefields and events from the war. Hosting the tour will be Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great-grandson of Jefferson Davis, the U.S. Congressman from Mississippi who served as president of the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865.

“This cruise is one of the most holistic views of the Civil War ever offered,” Hayes-Davis said. “Guests will experience the people, places and events of the war as they visit the battlefields and stand where history was made. This is a unique opportunity to see the entire scope of the battles of the Civil War and put them in contact to each other and the entire conflict.”

The 35-day cruise will take place on three vessels, with time spent on the Mississippi, Tennessee and Potomac rivers, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and Chesapeake Bay. Reservations are now open. The price per person starts at $24,700. Airfare and pre-cruise hotel stays are included, and ACL provides coach transportation for shore excursions.

ACL is able to offer those long itineraries, along with extended cruises along the East and West coasts, because the company’s vessels are U.S.-built, U.S.-owned and crewed by U.S. citizens.

The company’s focus on smaller ships and its ability to make successive stops at U.S. ports allowed ACL to resume cruising much sooner than other cruise lines during the pandemic. It also paves the way for a wider variety of itineraries, from a new eight-day cruise on the Tennessee River to the 60- and 35-day cruises debuting next year.

“We’re finding that people like the small boats, and it gives us the ability to have more itineraries throughout the country,” Paolella said.

The same family that owns ACL also owns Chesapeake Shipbuilding, along with Pearl Seas Cruise Line, which operates the Pearl Mist cruise ship on the Great Lakes.

For more information on ACL, visit

Caption for top photo:

New American Cruise Lines modern riverboat on the Mississippi River. (Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines)