Jeff Gayduk leads another Take 5 interview with Joe Jiffo, the vice president of sales at American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines.
Joe Jiffo has a lot of experience in hospitality and management, starting out at the Marriott Corporation in the 80s, then working with Celebrity Cruises in the 90s. He went on to work for Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line as a senior director of national accounts. He has been with the American Queen Steamboat Company for only six months, but Joe is, “…having the time of my life with such an incredible organization with great leadership.”
Even though Joe knows very well how popular European cruises are, it’s easy to understand how a new demand emerged for a closer to home vacation and river cruise, as Joe explains, “…with the unfortunate circumstances that this world is in with COVID you know, travelers had that pent up demand and wanted to stay close to home and so they they became more more receptive to our product and more knowledgeable on our product.” American Queen Steamboat now has all four vessels sailing, with all passengers requiring vaccination status, as well as the crew. Since March, they have not had a case or outbreak due to the strictness of their vaccination, mask requirements, and safety measures set out for the crew and customers.
When the company debuted the American Countess in March of this past year, it was a new vessel that got plenty of press and attention because other companies weren’t sailing out the time. Customers wanted to explore the rivers and waterways of America, a favorite being the Mississippi River. A steamboat cruise is a great way to see America without dealing with the messiness of road travel. As Joe details, guests, “…get to see the charms of the South, they get to see the Pacific Northwest where you can go to the wine country, and you can do some really fun, you know, shore excursions and activities.”
Even aboard the boat, guests can enjoy lively entertainment during their trip. Joe describes it as, “Our onboard entertainment is really spectacular when you look at it, even compared to European river cruises. Like, we don’t really have this one guy sitting at the piano. We have, you know, full bands and different types of shows each night. And we have what we call a river lorien that comes on and does guest lectures based on the particular area that we’re sailing in.” There is lot’s of great on-board entertainment, but this steamboat company also offers premium on shore excursions such as a swamp tour, zip lining, and the BB King Museum.
There are also themed expeditions that groups can choose from, such as their popular Golf Cruise, where you can set sail with a PGA Professional visiting some of the premier golf courses along the Mississippi. With the U.S rivers, there is so much opportunity and potential to travel through many of the states.
Currently, the ships of the company are dispersed across America. The Empress is in the Pacific Northwest by Columbia rivers. Then there is the American Queen, we have the American Duchess, the American Count all sailing the Mississippi along the Upper, Lower and Mighty Mississippi. The company’s Victory Vessels host their international trips, however due to current restrictions, international travel has been put on hold until 2022. In 2018, the company bought Victory Cruise Line, which at the time was Victory One and Victory Two, and they sail the Great Lakes. The company has not used the Victory Cruise Line for two years, but are planning to add a third vessel called Ocean Victory, which is going to be an expedition ship to Alaska.
The best way to book a trip with American Queen Steamboat Company is to reach out to a travel advisor through their website. They are very knowledgeable on the product and expeditions for guests to plan for in 2022 and beyond.