The Louisiane: The “Ne Plus Ultra Of American River Cruising”

Louisianeriverview

The 4,225-ton twin-screw 75-stateroom upmarket river cruiser Louisiane

“Intimate, exclusive and elegant” is what the brochures call it, the “ne plus ultra of American river cruising” is how its founder and chairman Christopher Kyte describes it. The newly-established French America Line will introduce the new boutique river cruiser Louisiane to America’s river cruising scene this August.

The 150-berth Louisiane will offer twenty departures between August and December this year, with an exciting choice of exclusive voyages on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Red Rivers.

The new line’s founder began his career with San Francisco-based Matson Lines and eventually established his own travel business in 1990, when he founded Uncommon Journeys as a purveyor of upmarket rail and cruise holidays.

Using Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Amtrak and Via Rail Canada, as well as the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Kyte built what is today a well-regarded operation that offers the best of rail and cruise holidays, usually in conjunction with each other. In 2012, Kyte helped bring the 360-berth sternwheeler American Queen out of lay up and back into service on the Mississippi River, in the process becoming the first president of the American Queen Steamboat Company.

French America Line ceo Ken Grigsby has also worked with Uncommon Journeys, for twenty-five years in his case, and had previous background in banking and hotels before becoming involved in Uncommon Journey’s first-class rail trips. London-based director Kevin Griffin founded The Cruise People in 1992.

Uncommon Journeys’ president Kevin Tam, meanwhile, another trusted hand, will act as general manager of the new river operator. His business is expected to supply about a quarter of French America Line’s passengers.

Outside investors include Sydney-based cruise specialist Cruiseco Pty Ltd, who have also taken a 14-night full ship charter of the Louisiane from New Orleans to Nashville between October 26 and November 9. Cruiseco has also been appointed exclusive general sales agent for the new line in Australia and New Zealand.

This cruise will tie in with Cruiseco’s exclusive charter of the 684-berth Azamara Quest, which is making a 32-night voyage from Montreal to New Orleans with nineteen ports and nine overnight stays. The Azamara Quest will leave Montreal on September 24 and passengers’ luggage will be transferred between their staterooms on the Quest and new accommodations on the Louisiane on Wednesday, October 26, as they explore New Orleans.

The 4,225-ton Louisiane was built by Leevac Shipyards in Jennings, Lousiana, in 2000 and completed by Cascade General shipyard in Portland, Oregon, who are very active today with cruise ship refits. The vessel, which has been laid up in Portland since 2008 was acquired by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, who took over the assets of previous operator Majestic America Line, in 2011. Xanterra is the parent company of Windstar Cruises, who now operate three tall ships plus three yacht-style ships acquired from Seabourn in 2014 and 2015, and decided to sell the Columbia Queen as the Louisiane was known, as surplus to their needs. Xanterra had already disposed of the 1926-built Delta Queen on the Mississippi.

LouisianeVeranda

The Veranda overlooks the Louisiane‘s stern decks and provides an alternate dining venue

Setting the Louisiane apart from the other American river ships are a complimentary one-night pre-cruise deluxe hotel stay in the embarkation city, with transfers on sailing day, complimentary custom shore excursions in every port, complimentary house wines, select beers, house-brand spirits, coffees, teas, soft drinks and purified water, free 24-hour room service and complimentary Wi-Fi wherever it is available.

The Lousiane will also offer the finest cuisine on America’s rivers, with Southern and Continental menus created by award-winning chef Regina Charboneau, who has worked with Christopher Kyte in the past. As well as a main dining room that doubles as a supper club, guests will be able to dine in the relaxed atmosphere of The Veranda, Louisiane’s complimentary alternative casual dining venue.

The on board ambiance will be casual but sophisticated, with a distinctive French flair. Guests will be able to sail waterways not accessible by larger vessels, and as well as an iPad in every stateroom and suite, will benefit from plush spa-quality bathrobes, slippers and a pillow menu.

LouisianePanoramaStateroom

This Panorama Stateroom is one of four that overlook the ship’s wake

To see the level at which the Louisiane is pitched, it is only necessary to look at the line’s branding agreements – with Hermes and L’Occitane en Provence for bath amenities, with New Orleans-based Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait, as well as boxed Ladurée macaroons from Paris as a welcome aboard gift and Vosges chocolates for turn-down service

Cruises will be divided into Sampler Cruise Tours (4 nights or less), Classic Cruise Tours (5 to 7 nights), Grand Cruise Tours (8 nights or more), and Collector’s Cruise Tours of varying lengths.

There are fifteen different itineraries on offer, with twenty departure dates in total – this is a snapshot of the available itineraries with Steling fares:

Sampler:  Frontier Fete – November 9 – 4 nights from Nashville return. Fares from £1,337 per person twin share.

Classic:  American Adventure – August 27 and September 4 – 7 nights from Pittsburgh to Louisville. Fares from £2,814 per person.

Grand:  Southern Spirit – December 30, 2016 ~ 9 nights from New Orleans to Memphis. Fares from £3,599 per person

Collector’s:  Red River Holiday ~ 8 nights from New Orleans return.
Fares from £3,138 per person.

This year the total number of North Americans taking European river cruisers is expected to exceed 500,000, representing a seven-fold increase since 2001. Even if Viking River Cruises add up to six proposed new 300-berth US-flag vessels starting in 2018, and with existing competition from the three boats operated by American Cruise Lines and American Queen, 14 million North Americans took a cruise last year. This should mean enough business for all lines on the Missisippi and its tributaries

For further details of the new French America Line please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail CruisePeopleLtd@aol.com.

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About thecruisepeople
Specialists in sea travel - ultra-luxury cruising, freighter travel, small ships and expedition voyages.

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