Company News

American Queen Voyages Ceases Operations

American Queen Voyages ceased all operations February 20, terminating its employees and canceling all future cruises.

Hornblower Group, parent company of American Queen Voyages, announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, saying that the overnight passenger cruising business had not rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hornblower Group announced February 21 that it is entering into an agreement with Strategic Value Partners LLC (SVP) and its affiliates, a global alternative investment firm, that will allow SVP to acquire a majority ownership of Hornblower. SVP will provide significant equity investment into the company, Hornblower said. Crestview Partners will retain a significant minority position and will become the sole owner of Journey Beyond, which provides travel experiences in Australia.

The agreement reduces Hornblower’s debt by approximately $720 million. It also provides for Hornblower to receive $121 million in new-money financing from SVP-managed funds and Crestview, Hornblower said. Hornblower also received a commitment for $300 million in debtor-in-possession financing from Deutsche Bank Private Credit & Infrastructure to refinance its existing super-priority term loan.

In connection with the agreement, Hornblower said American Queen Voyages “will be sold or, if a sale cannot be achieved, its operations will be wound down.”

An internal company letter posted anonymously on Facebook said American Queen Voyages employees were notified February 20 that the company would cease operations at 5 p.m., citing unforeseen circumstances and a lack of available capital. American Queen said employees’ terminations would be effective at the same time and were expected to be permanent.

American Queen had previously canceled its February cruises but had  said it expected to begin its season in March. Last June it had announced that it would end cruising on the Great Lakes after the 2023 season, instead focusing on its river and Alaska cruises. At that time the company also announced it planned to sell its Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator vessels, which had cruised the Great Lakes.

American Queen Voyages operated four cruise ships on the U.S. river system. The American Queen, American Duchess and American Countess all operated on the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers. The American Empress sailed on the Columbia and Snake rivers in Oregon and Washington.

The American Queen, built in 1995 to join the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen in the Delta Queen Steamboat Company fleet, is a six-deck recreation of a classic Mississippi steamboat. It has been called the largest river steamboat ever built. A steam engine powers its paddlewheel, but it is augmented by diesel-electric Z-drives on either side of the sternwheel.

Hornblower Group said the deal with SVP will help the company to move forward.

“These collective actions will enable Hornblower to move ahead with a more focused portfolio, stronger balance sheet and additional financial flexibility, well-positioned to continue driving growth in its core land- and water-based experiences businesses,” Hornblower said. “These core businesses are delivering excellent results and serving thousands of guests every day.”

CEO Kevin Rabbitt said the company has strong relationships with government and with business partners “and our core businesses are performing well with robust and growing demand.”

“The steps we are taking today will enable us to address AQV and strengthen our financial foundation as we continue serving our guests and commuters around the world,” Rabbitt said. “With the support of our financial stakeholders, we will continue to advance our business initiatives and drive growth. We thank the entire Hornblower team for their hard work and dedication, as well as our vendors and partners across our businesses for their continued support.”

Hornblower said that outside of American Queen Voyages, none of Hornblower’s other services would be affected in any way by the transaction.

The company described the bankruptcy as voluntary, court-supervised and prearranged and said that due to support of its investors it expects to move through the process on an accelerated basis and to emerge from Chapter 11 in approximately four months. The company offered more information on the website That website noted that American Queen Voyages guests should expect to be fully refunded for cruise deposits and directed them to for information about how they can apply for a refund. It requires guests to submit a claim that includes documentation, then receive a denial notice refusing the refunds because of bankruptcy. That denial notice can then be submitted to Argo Surety which, according to the information the company provided, has insured all trips.

The company said it intends to pay vendors and suppliers for goods and services after the Chapter 11 filing. Unpaid debts for goods and services provided prior to the filing, known as pre-petition claims, cannot be paid without specific court approval.

Information on the court process is available at, a website administered by Omni Agent Solutions, the company’s claims agent. Omni may be reached at 888-504-8055, or 747-263-0163 for calls originating outside the United States or Canada, or by emailing

The company also posted additional information, including frequently asked questions, at

There, it said, “American Queen Voyages “Despite great efforts by our team, crew and partners, American Queen Voyages (AQV) unfortunately has been unable to rebound from the effects of the pandemic. The overnight cruise industry was especially affected by changes in travel preferences and, as a result, AQV has become financially unsustainable. We are therefore shutting down the business, and all future AQV cruises have been canceled.”

The company added that it was “deeply proud of our crew and the outstanding travel experiences and service we have provided to our guests.”

It added, “We sincerely regret any inconvenience this decision causes. Our goal is to ensure a smooth process for all AQV stakeholders.”