On Old Man River, something new is whipping up a wake. Not to mention turning heads. Mark Twain wouldn’t believe his eyeballs, and neither will clients who’ve journeyed the legendary Mississippi aboard a traditional vessel—the ones with curlicued Victorian trim and churning red paddlewheel.
On Aug. 17, American Cruise Lines launched American Harmony on its inaugural cruise from New Orleans, the second entry of five in the line’s innovative modern riverboat series. Contemporary in technical style and design, the ship spotlights a unique feature among riverboats: an opening bow and retractable gangway that enables bow landings. The interior, awash with light thanks to a striking 5-story glass atrium, shows off airy lounges and inviting sundecks, while the 99 staterooms are surprisingly spacious. Standard cabins range from 275-350 sq.ft. and the Veranda Suites boast 405 sq. ft., with Owner’s Suites coming in at 645 sq.ft. and Grand Suites over 800 sq. ft.; all have a private furnished balcony.
“In U.S. river cruising, paddlewheelers have been the predominant style available to consumers since the early-1800s,” points out Susan Shultz-Gelino, the company’s director of business development, “and while the paddlewheeler is iconic, it was high time to provide U.S. river cruisers another option as modern-style ships have been available in Europe for years. Ours are the first and only modern-style riverboats available in the U.S.A.”
Notes Shultz-Gelino, “Our guests are loving the new modern riverboats—and our paddlewheelers, too. It is up to travel advisors and their clients to decide which style suits.”
I checked out the new concept on an 8-day New Orleans-to-Memphis itinerary, calling at Oak Alley and Baton Rouge, LA, plus Natchez and Vicksburg, MS. A complimentary pre-cruise hotel overnight allows for a day of sampling the charms of the Big Easy. Passengers are housed at the downtown InterContinental New Orleans, a stroll from French Quarter attractions and handy to restaurants and shops. Bags are picked up at the hotel on embarkation day and, after an included breakfast and a brief shuttle, are waiting in passengers’ staterooms on boarding.
A cruise aboard American Harmony, as with all ACL’s 13 ships, includes dining, complimentary beer and wine with lunch and dinner, onboard entertainment and enrichment programs, gratuities, and free WiFi. Plus free shuttles and several complimentary (some have a modest charge), well-curated shore excursions (antebellum mansions, Civil War battlefields, timeless museums). Ranking high in guest enthusiasm is the daily complimentary cocktail hour in the Magnolia Lounge.
Also earning plaudits are the ship’s irresistible menu offerings in the open-seating dining room. (I heard only rave reviews for the culinary fare from the mostly senior passengers.) Daily dishes, and enrichment talks and entertainment (including Big Easy jazz pros), are themed to the region. Passengers tuck into mouth-watering winners from New Orleans chicken and andouille gumbo to Memphis BBQ beef brisket. For outdoor hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza, there’s the Back Porch Cafe on deck four.
Important intel for clients: the smooth ease of group shore explorations, along with seamless boarding and disembarking, reflect not only commendable efficiency but the vessel’s size. American Harmony’s capacity of 190 means no crowding, no lines,
In the modern riverboat series, both American Harmony and set-to-debut American Jazz will travel the Mississippi in 2020. American Song, introduced in 2018, will ply the Columbia and Snake rivers.
What’s In it For Travel Advisors
ACL’s website features a newly enhanced Travel Advisor Portal including a new My Account feature where advisors can create a login, manage and design their client’s upcoming cruises, process payments for outstanding balances and much more. ACL’s Travel Advisor Portal regularly offers certification classes, informational videos, downloadable photos, logos, marketing materials, deck plans, group booking information, and extensive information.
American Cruise Lines: americancruiselines.com