American Eagle Riverboat Christened
Passengers onboard for the inaugural voyage watched the christening ceremony from the higher decks. (Photo by Theresa Norton Masek)
The skies were threatening but the mood was celebratory as American Cruise Lines christened its second Mississippi River vessel in New Orleans on April 25.
Cheryl Landrieu, the wife of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, served as godmother and gave the traditional blessing before smashing a bottle of bubbly on the ship’s railing. The bottle was tightly wrapped in red, white, and blue ribbons so no glass fell into the river.
The 150-passenger American Eagle, sister to the Queen of the Mississippi riverboat, will mainly cruise on the Lower Mississippi River between New Orleans and Memphis, although it also offers two sailings on the entire length of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and St. Paul in August and September.
The ceremony took place on the front deck of the ship before it departed on its inaugural voyage, a seven-night round-trip from New Orleans. Passengers watched the festivities from the three decks above.
The actual ceremony was hastily moved up as soon as the mayor and his wife boarded because severe storms were moving into the area.
American Cruise Lines President Charles A. Robertson introduced the godmother and mayor, saying that New Orleans “probably is my favorite city in the whole world.” The mayor thanked Robertson for investing in New Orleans.
After the ceremony, guests enjoyed a performance by the Victory Belles, a 1940s-style trio of singers affiliated with the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. They sang patriotic songs and tunes from the era. Shortly afterward, the thunderstorms moved in.
The American Eagle is virtually similar to the Queen of the Mississippi, the main difference being that crew cabins were moved from Deck 5 to Main Deck to make room for nine staterooms on the top of the ship.
The vessel has 84 staterooms, and all but six have private balconies. There are 19 solo-occupancy staterooms in various categories; all have a private balcony except for one. The accommodations are very spacious, ranging from 260 to 600 square feet. The solo staterooms are a large 210 square feet.
“That’s a big draw for us,” Robertson said in a pre-ceremony interview. “Our guests like the size of the staterooms and the verandas.”
Robertson said the company is building a third riverboat for the Mississippi, tentatively scheduled to enter service sometime around July 2016. It will, however, be a little wider and longer to accommodate about 185 people with slightly bigger staterooms and an additional lounge.
“I don’t see us ever building ships over 200 passengers,” Robertson said. “The economics are important, but what I’ve found and learned is that people are willing to pay for small, intimate ships with really good service.”
Another riverboat is tentatively set to enter service in 2017, but it hasn’t been determined where it will sail. American Cruise Lines also operates the 120-passenger Queen of the West in the Pacific Northwest, on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
The company also operates four coastal cruise ships accommodating 49 to 104 passengers. Robertson said he is planning to build another coastal cruiser for American similar to the Pearl Mist, the 210-passenger ship operated by sister company Pearl Seas Cruises.
The Pearl Mist this summer is operating in the Canadian Maritimes, Saint Lawrence Seaway, and the Great Lakes and will move south for the winter, operating Caribbean and Panama Canal/Costa Rica cruises.
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