That Didn’t Last Long – One Great Lakes Cruise Line Ending Voyages After Only Two Years
Ports around the Great Lakes, like Duluth and Thunder Bay, have been seeing an uptick in cruise ships making stops in the last couple of years. While Viking Cruises ship Octantis has been a regular visitor to the Twin Ports area, other companies have been getting in on (or expanding) their presence on the Great Lakes.
One of them is American Queen Voyages, which operates two ships on the Great Lakes - the Ocean Navigator and Ocean Voyager. While Duluth has not been a primary destination for American Queen Voyages, their ships have made a few appearances in the Twin Ports.
According to WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the company has maintained a presence on the Great Lakes since 2022, including stops largely east of Duluth, however, there have been visits to the Twin Ports. For example, the company's Ocean Navigator has been to Duluth two times this year - June 9 and June 23.
Those two stops look like they will be the last two for the company in Duluth, as they have announced they plan to end service on the Great Lakes at the end of the 2023 season and there are no additional scheduled Duluth stops for their vessels this year.
American Queen Voyages told Michigan TV station WJMN that they feel that the harsh winters seen around the Great Lakes lead to a situation that doesn't "make fiscal sense for the company."
The company's president, Cindy D’Aoust, commented to WJMN explaining that bookings have been strong for their Great Lakes cruises and that guests have had positive feedback for itineraries, but there's one notable challenge for the company.
D’Aoust explained that the company bought their two vessels, the Ocean Navigator and Ocean Voyager, with the hope of a 12-month cruise schedule, saying "While both vessels have done extremely well in the Great Lakes, their extended off-season operational costs outweigh the benefits to achieve our overall business goals. With that in mind, we have made the decision to turn our focus to our river and Alaska voyages and are continuing to improve our offerings on those itineraries for 2024 and 2025 sailings."
The company reportedly plans to sell the two ships, with the Duluth News Tribune reporting that there are not yet any prospective buyers for the two vessels.
As American Queen Voyages looks to exit the Great Lakes cruises game, other companies continue to sail ahead. Viking, for example, is continuing to grow its offerings, with its two ships - the Octantis and Polaris - scheduled for four more visits to Duluth yet in 2023.
In addition, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is continuing Great Lakes service, which has included two stops in Duluth with their Hanseatic Inspiration earlier this year and a couple of stops planned for 2024. Furthermore, Pearl Seas Cruises has a 2024 schedule that includes stops in Duluth in 2024.