American Hawaii: Emphasis on Soft Adventure

“Our emphasis is on soft adventure, cultural experience, exposure to local customs and food, and a more informal and more participatory passenger experience,” said S. Cody Engle, Chairman and CEO of American Hawaii Cruises and sister company Delta Queen Steamboat Company in describing the Hawaiian Island cruises.

The company is spending $60 million renovating the Independence this summer and the Constitution next summer. Cody estimated the life expectancy of these two American-flag ships, which were built in 1951, to be “at least another 30 years, probably indefinite.”

When Delta Queen acquired American Hawaii last August, “the company committed to spending $30 million,” said Engle. “Instead, we are spending at least double that.”

With the new parent company in Chicago, American Hawaii’s corporate headquarters, along with sales and marketing and reservations, are being moved to Chicago where they are expected to be up and running by August 1.

“The reason for the move was a combination of the parent company being in Chicago and that American Hawaii could better serve its clientele from the middle of the country,” said Engle. Hotel and marine operations, meanwhile, will continue to operate out of Honolulu in enlarged facilities, according to Engle.

The company’s San Francisco offices will be closed down as of Sept. 1.

Engle underscored that he sees American Hawaii and Delta Queen as unique but separate products catering to specific markets. Thus, the two companies will not share sales forces or reservations.

Starting on the first of the year, American Hawaii will be sailing seven-day cruises only, departing Sundays and Tuesdays, according to Engle. The line has previously been sailing a variety of seven-day plus three- and four-day and two- and five-day combinations.

Engle said he did not agree with the economies of scale concept subscribed to by the large cruise lines, except it the area of marketing.

“With Delta Queen, we are operating in a higher price range, and l anticipate that our pricing will go up for American Hawaii too.

While Engle said that he doesn’t have any specific expansion plans for American Hawaii, he said that “we will build on what we have and see.” He noted that it had taken four years to increase the occupancy rate at Delta Queen from 82 percent to 95 percent while also increasing ticket prices an average of 12 percent per year and ordering a new ship in the process.

“Our objective for both American Hawaii and Delta Queen, is to present to passengers a unique and comprehensive experience, different than what most cruise lines offer,” Engle said.

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