Economic impact of American Queen shutdown will be felt locally

Published 10:50 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024

While the exact nature of what led American Queen Voyages to abruptly cease operations earlier this week has yet to come into complete focus, the impact the move will have on local pocketbooks certainly has.

Nancy Bell, with the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, which operates the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum – a popular tourist spot for those traveling with the cruise line, – said its sudden closure was a punch in the gut to many in Vicksburg’s downtown area.

Bell said the American Queen is the oldest of the three lines that docked in Vicksburg, along with Viking Cruise Lines and American Cruise Lines, adding its absence will be felt by those businesses its guests frequented.

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Among those expected to be hardest hit, Bell said, are museums, the Vicksburg National Military Park, and the local retail shops located throughout downtown.

“Their guests didn’t do a whole lot in the local restaurants, because they would go back and eat on the boat. And, of course, they stayed on the boat,” she said. “But, American Queen would include the price of the museum in their rates and it really worked. And all of the local shops would be full.”

Laura Beth Strickland, executive director of Visit Vicksburg – which provides tourist information and promotes the River City, – said the absence of the American Queen will result in an estimated $1.14 million in lost revenue in Vicksburg in 2024. Strickland said the cruise line had 63 scheduled stops in Vicksburg for the 2024 season. The American Queen’s last day to dock in Vicksburg came on January 3.

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the city as a whole will feel the impact of the loss.

“It’s going to adversely affect our local economy,” Flaggs said. “We depend on tourism to help us with our revenue flow, but I believe that we can adjust to it. I’m told we still have about 136 dockings left.”

Those dockings will come from the remaining scheduled stops from both Viking and American Cruise Lines, although Strickland said that number includes the three dockings that came in January to conclude the 2023 season.


American Queen Voyages has ceased all operations as of Tuesday, Feb. 20, and canceled all future cruises, including those planned for Vicksburg.

The shutdown was made public via an outgoing message on the company’s reservation call line and in messages to employees.

“American Queen Voyages has made the difficult decision to shut down and all future cruises have been canceled. Guests and customers should expect to be fully refunded for canceled cruises,” the reservation line message states.

The announcement came less than a week after the cruise line said it would resume cruises along the lower Mississippi River in March following a suspension of activity in the area during February.  

Angela Composto, vice president in charge of marketing for the cruise line, said last week the February cruises were suspended primarily due to maintenance that needed to be performed, but had been delayed.  

“The river cruises have a wonderful, built-in maintenance period at the end of the year. This year, some of our maintenance has been delayed, and because of that, our boats were not ready for the cruises beginning in February,” she said.  

Despite the explanation from the cruise line, some of the travel agencies that book cruises had already suspended sales of American Queen Voyages over service issues, according to a story online at Travel Weekly. Among those were Signature Travel Network, Pleasant Holidays and AAA Travel, the website reports. Virtuoso also removed American Queen Voyages from its preferred supplier list.  

Bell said the company typically covers rates for its guests to visit local museums with built-in pricing, but added payments had been coming in late over the last several months. 

“I can’t speak for anyone else, but we had some payments from several months back that wouldn’t be made, but then they would catch it up,” Bell said. “They were a good company. They were good to us.”

An American Queen spokesperson issued an apology, according to the website’s story, for recent issues just days prior to the company announcing it would cease operations.

“We acknowledge and apologize for the issues. American Queen Voyages deeply values all of our travel agent partners and are taking all matters very seriously. We are working to address the situation as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The accounting team has gotten a bit behind. I couldn’t say specifically what the issues are, but they are trying to figure those out and fix them as quickly as possible,” 

American Queen Voyages, formerly known as American Queen Steamboat Company, operated river cruises all along the length of the Mississippi River, as well as the Ohio River valley and the Pacific Northwest. It has included Vicksburg on its itineraries for more than a decade. After an 18-month hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it returned to Vicksburg in August 2021.

Tuesday’s message came with instructions for customers looking for a refund, directing them to, a site that initially led to a “403 -Forbidden: Access is Denied” message. That issue has since been resolved, with the site now populating instructions for the process of obtaining a refund.