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America’s largest paddleboat company is landing — and rebranding — in Florida

·2 min read

South Florida is getting another cruise company — but it’s not the typical ocean-goer.

American Queen, which carries the most passengers of any inland U.S. waterway overnight tour company and operates the largest paddlewheeler in the country, announced Tuesday it is moving its headquarters from southeast Indiana to Fort Lauderdale, with plans to hire 100. It is also changing its name from American Queen Steamboat Company to American Queen Voyages.

“When you think about South Florida, it’s the heart of the cruise industry,” Kevin Rabbitt, CEO of American Queen parent company Hornblower Group, said in an interview. “So it gives us a lot of advantages, especially access to great talent. They might not have worked with river cruises, but they’d understand everything that goes into it. And it’s a great place to relocate for recruiting outside talent.”

American Queen’s re-brand is designed to capture its river vessels and, with its Victory Cruise Line unit, lake- and sea-bound ones. The company’s destination list includes most major American riverways, as well as the Great Lakes, Canada, New England, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Mexico. By 2023, the company will be running eight vessels.

“Through a decade of transformation, American Queen Voyages has surged from the great American rivers to include lakes, ocean and expedition experiences,” said Shawn Bierdz, chief operating officer, American Queen Voyages, in a statement.

“Today, we are American Queen Voyages and embrace this simple but important expression — ‘Discovery Runs Deep.’ As we move into this new chapter and introduce our version of encounter travel, we uphold the originating vision of our company’s founder and chairman, John Waggoner and his unwavering belief in the renaissance of U.S. river cruising and close-to-home adventures.”

For now, American Queen’s sole voyage out of Florida is a round-tripper from Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach to the Bahamas, with stops along the southeastern seaboard. Rabbitt said growth in the industry remains strong and that it continues to evaluate new routes.

American Queen plans to move into a branded office tower on the top floor of Fort Lauderdale’s Coastal Tower on Commercial Boulevard.

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