For American Queen Steamboat Company, christenings are decidedly a family affair. Angie Hack, the daughter of American Queen President and CEO John Waggoner, will christen American Countess – which will ply the Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio and Cumberland rivers – in New Orleans on April 4 prior to its inaugural from the Big Easy to Memphis on April 5.
“Even though we’re getting to be a big business we still try to operate like a family business,” Waggoner said. His wife, Claudette Waggoner, christened American Empress in 2014, and his daughter, Melissa Applegate, christened American Duchess in 2017.
The one exception was the christening of American Queen by Priscilla Presley in 2012, as the ship was in Memphis, the city Elvis Presley called home.
There’s a twist to American Queen christenings. “Because we’re based in Louisville, Ky., we try to honor Louisville traditions,” Waggoner said. “We don’t christen our boats with champagne – we christen them with bourbon.”
American Countess, which was constructed from the hull of Kanesville Queen, a former gaming vessel, was lengthened with a 60-foot mid-body section.
One of the ship’s many one-of-kind features is its abundance of viewing areas. “She’s got five public areas where guests can take in the panoramic views,” Waggoner said.
The vessel’s 123 staterooms range in size from 170 to 255 square feet. Categories include Deluxe Outside Staterooms with Private Veranda, Outside Staterooms with Open Veranda, Inside Staterooms and Single Outside Stateroom with Open Veranda.
In addition to the Grand Dining Room, food-and-beverage options include the casual River Grill for breakfast lunch and dinner; the Grand Bar & Lobby for cocktails and small plates; Perks, for self-service coffee and snacks; and 24-hour room service.
Beyond the debut of American Countess, it’s been a busy year for the company. As reported, sister line Victory Cruise Lines is adding a fourth ship to its fleet. The 200-passenger expedition vessel, Ocean Discoverer, will be delivered in September 2022 and will operate 12- to 13-day voyages in Alaska in 2023.
In 11 years, the company has added eight vessels to its American Queen and Victory fleets. “Just this year we have a 31 percent increase in capacity, and next year we will have a 21 percent increase in capacity,” Waggoner said. “Our growth has been unprecedented.”
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