American Cruise Lines: More Small Ship Capacity

With a recent newbuild announced and scheduled to enter service in 2013, American Cruise Lines will continue adding more small-ship capacity.

The line will also mark its first foray into Alaska in 2012, and will enter service on the Mississippi with the new Queen of the Mississippi, according to Charles Robertson, chairman and CEO, in an exclusive interview with Cruise Industry News.

The line will be going into two markets that other companies could not find success in. Cruise West went bankrupt while operating small ships in Alaska (and a variety of other places), and the Mississippi river has been a revolving door of operators in recent memory.

Nevertheless, bookings are up 45 percent over 2011, and Robertson said success would come as “we’re an entirely different company with a different philosophy, business plan and financial structure.”

He said per diems are high and operating costs are low as their fleet is new and thus more efficient.

“We’ve never had an unprofitable year,” he explained. “Our competitors have been financially challenged and we’ve flourished where they have failed. We are not undercapitalized.

“You can’t compete with us with a 20 year old or 30 year old ship,” he noted.

Robertson credited the success in the small-ship segment to new ships.

“The small ship cruise industry was very slow to learn a new lesson, that new equipment works, makes money and is safer.”

Major source markets for Robertson following the United States are Germany, the UK, Australia and Canada.

For the future, he plans to grow “right along with the demand. We will continue to build ships along with the demand that is there.”

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