American Cruise Lines says it’ll be the first brand to restart sailing with a departure from Portland, Oregon, next month.

By Paul Brady
Updated July 11, 2020
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A U.S.-based cruise line will set sail along the Columbia and Snake Rivers on June 20, getting back to the water with its American Song river ship traveling from Portland, Oregon, to Clarkston, Washington.

Connecticut-based operator American Cruise Lines says it’s the first company to run such a cruise in the U.S., and it’s voluntarily taking the trip at 75 percent capacity. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a No Sail Order in place, prohibiting many cruise operations, the restriction applies only to ships carrying 250 or more passengers. The American Song, by contrast, is built to accommodate just 184 people — or 138 at three-quarters capacity.

American Cruise Lines says it’s getting back on the water because passengers are clamoring for vacations. “Our guests want to cruise,” said Charles B. Robertson, president and CEO of American Cruise Lines, by email. “There is a resurgence of demand to begin exploring this country, and as the largest American cruise line, we look forward to responsibly resuming travel.”

The first step is the June 20 departure. “We reached out to [guests] in advance of all decisions and went over our new safety plans — to gauge their desires and feelings — and they want to cruise with us,” a company spokeswoman said by email.

Among the plans are touch-less boarding and check-in and medical screenings for passengers, including denial of boarding for anyone showing flu-like symptoms. Ships will carry “COVID-19 quick test kits,” the company said, and housekeepers will wear personal protective equipment. There will also be a “resident nurse or EMT on each ship for the duration of each cruise,” American added.

Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Passengers can expect less formal safety protocols, too. Every stateroom aboard the company’s new ships, including the American Song, features a balcony. “All of our ships also offer independent HVAC air systems in each individual cabin and all interior lounges and spaces with no shared ductwork,” the spokeswoman said. Plus, the line’s “Cruise With Comfort” policy allows guests to cancel for any reason up to 24 hours prior to departure.

After the first sailing in the Pacific Northwest, American Cruise Lines will quickly follow with a trip down the Mississippi River, aboard the American Harmony, departing Memphis on June 28 for New Orleans. After that? “We may also add an Alaska sailing [that] could be as early as the end of June/early July,” the spokeswoman said.

The trips all take place aboard some of American’s newest ships, which have made the company the largest U.S.-based cruise line in recent years. And while the company operates more traditional riverboats as well as some paddle wheelers, it has also embarked on a fleet expansion, adding five new ships since 2017. The brand has two more all-balcony ships to debut in the coming years: The American Jazz and American Melody, both of which have a capacity of 190 passengers, would be, like the American Song, exempt from the current CDC order.