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One less cruise line will ply the Mississippi River this summer, bringing fewer ships and passengers to Minnesota ports.

American Queen Voyages, one of three cruise lines touring the Upper and Lower Mississippi in recent years, abruptly announced on its website last week that it would be shutting down, citing an inability to rebound from the pandemic. The cruise line began life in 2011 as American Queen Steamboat Company.

The line's iconic paddlewheeler American Queen and sister ships American Duchess and American Countess had once again been scheduled to visit Minnesota river towns such as Red Wing and Winona this summer, on various Mississippi itineraries. AQV's website includes a link for requesting a refund for these canceled journeys.

Those three ships are currently docked in or around New Orleans. There was no immediate information on the vessels' future.

American Queen Voyages may be out, but U.S. river cruising is surging, including on the Mississippi, which offers a more laid-back alternative to ocean cruising.

The busiest operator on the Great River is rapidly expanding American Cruise Lines, whose sleek new line of smaller, modern "American Riverboats" — American Melody, American Serenade and American Symphony — will again sail a range of Mississippi River tours including Minnesota, starting in late June. In 2025, American Cruise Lines' own paddlewheelers American Heritage and American Splendor will also come to Minnesota. Itineraries that begin in Red Wing include a pre-cruise hotel night in St. Paul.

Meanwhile, luxury line Viking River Cruises will embark on its third summer/fall season aboard the 386-passenger Viking Mississippi, the largest cruise ship on the waterway.

There were signs of American Queen Voyages pulling back as early as last year. The line announced last summer that it would end its Great Lakes tours, which had recently included stops in Duluth. Travel Weekly reported in January that a number of travel agencies had stopped selling the cruise line due to service issues and delayed payments.