American Queen Paddlewheelers Sold to American Cruise Lines

American Queen
American Queen and three other river boats are being sold to American Cruise Lines (AQV)

Published Apr 2, 2024 3:54 PM by The Maritime Executive


A bankruptcy court filing in the Hornblower case reported today that American Cruise Lines has been selected as the purchaser for the four river boats previously operated by American Queen Voyages. The sale agreement calls for a purchase price of $6.3 million for the four vessels and other assets subject to final approval by the bankruptcy court, but does not include the two coastal cruise ships previously operated by American Queen.

The cruise line suspended operations ion February filing for bankruptcy citing its difficulties in recovering from the pandemic. They operated the four river boats primarily along portions of the Mississippi River. The operation was relaunched in 2012 when the company purchased the American Queen which had been idle for four years after its prior company went bankrupt. They expanded purchasing a second vessel and rebuilding two others into overnight cruise vessels. Hornblower late acquired American Queen as part of its expansion.

Hornblower announced in February 2024 that it would recapitalize through bankruptcy but planned to sell or close American Queen Voyages its only overnight cruise operation. The bankruptcy court had planned an auction for the four river boats scheduled for March 27, but then postponed the auction and today reported that the auction for the river vessel Assets was canceled. American Cruise Lines was identified as the buyer of the assets.

The court documents report they will pay $2.15 million for the American Queen, $1.6 million each for the American Empress and American Countess and just $200,000 for the American Duchess. The sale also includes related assets, including, among other things, trademarks associated with American Queen Voyages, website domain names, and certain business records for which American Cruise Lines is paying $750,000.

“American Cruise Lines is pleased to be the successful bidder for AQV’s river vessels,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to announcing additional details after this portion of the Hornblower Holdings bankruptcy process concludes.”

American Queen also operated two coastal cruise ships, the Ocean Voyager and the Ocean Navigator, which were not part of the sale to American Cruise Lines. Those vessels had been removed from service as of last October with American Queen previously reporting it intended to sell the two ships. The bankruptcy court had an auction scheduled to take place yesterday, April 1, for the coastal vessels.

American Cruise Lines already operates on the Mississippi both with its modern river boats and traditional paddlewheelers like the American Queen assets. The company has one paddlewheeler, the American Heritage, operating on the Mississippi and a second one in the east as well as two in the Pacific northwest. 

Hornblower reported that it would continue its excursion and tour boat operations unaffected by bankruptcy.