American Queen Voyages’ new president, Cindy D’Aoust, is ready to hit the ground running, and enhancing the guest experience while amplifying the role of the travel advisor are topping her list of priorities. Senior editor Nicole Edenedo spoke with the former global president and CEO of CLIA and of the Cape Resorts Management Co. about her first weeks on the job and about American Queen’s future.
Q: You’ve been in your new position for a little over a month now. How are things going?
A: My job is just to continue to build on the growth and the great reputation that already exists. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with our excursion team in Pennsylvania, our team in New Albany, Indiana, as well, and I’ve already visited the American Duchess and the American Queen. So I’m very excited to be able to meet the people and our guests.
Q: What are some of your long- and short-term priorities and goals at American Queen?
A: Long-term, my aspiration is to be the U.S. cruise of choice for discerning travelers. There will be some enhancements that we will make, some across the fleet and some based on the specific product. As for short-term enhancements, effective on Jan. 2 our everyday, all-inclusive pricing will include port charges, gratuities, fees. It will apply across our fleet and all of our products. We really want a simplified approach for our guests. Another short-term enhancement is to the American Duchess, as we want to make her the best that she can be, so we are going to take her out of service starting in July.
Q: Are there any plans for new destinations?
A: You will see some new itineraries and more overnights where we previously did not have an overnight, because it’s a great destination where guests would like to spend more time. We’re going to be looking at doing more on the Ohio River. Assuming that in future years we’ll continue to have challenges on the Mississippi River with high and low water, we want to have amazing options for people to select from.
Q: How will you incorporate your travel industry experience and your leadership roles at CLIA and Cape Resorts into your new role at American Queen?
A: I take things from every place that I’ve been. For me, Cape Resorts, a privately owned portfolio of nine properties, many of them historic, is very similar to American Queen: Every property had its own feel, its own vibe, its own brand, and our guests selected the brand that they wanted to align with. So I say I don’t have one brand; I have an overarching brand that is our American Queen Voyages family. I think we have an opportunity to really dig into each one of those different brands; an expedition experience [on ocean and Great Lakes sailings] is going to be very different than traveling down the Mississippi. I really want to lean into each one of these voyages based on the time of year, based on what they offer — and the ones that really can help us with this are our travel agents.
Q: How important are those travel agents to American Queen Voyages?
A: We are going to be forming American Queen’s first travel advisory council to get feedback from their clients on what works and what doesn’t. We’re getting back to the basics. Let’s start with what our guests are telling us, what they’ve told their travel advisor, what advisors can tell me about how to run the business. Everything falls back to a focus on people and being good listeners.
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