Thu. Feb 2nd, 2023

The Kentucky Derby has taken place continuously at Churchill Downs in Louisville since 1875. Often called “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” it’s not surprising that the race is on many traveler’s bucket lists.

American Queen Voyages, part of the Hornblower Group, has announced a new itinerary that not only allows guests to attend the Derby but also to experience an up-close, scenic cruise along the Ohio River.

The 2023 Kentucky Derby Cruise will sail from Louisville to Cincinnati aboard the cruise line’s newest paddle-wheeler, the 245-guest American Countess.

For some 50 years before the Civil War, steamboats carried passengers, goods, and livestock on the rivers of the nation’s heartland. Mark Twain once remarked that stepping aboard a steamboat allows one to enter a “new and marvelous world.”

Now, modern travelers can follow the same routes on vessels that blend luxury with history. The new nine-day river itinerary begins with a pre-cruise stay at Louisville’s Brown Hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

American Countess will also make stops in Madison, Indiana; and Brandenburg and Augusta, Kentucky, all with complimentary guided tours.

On board American Countess, guests can sip Kentucky bourbon while on the deck as they watch the Great American Steamboat Race, held in downtown Louisville on May 3. The ship will join the Belle of Louisville and Belle of Cincinnati, in this race that draws thousands of spectators to the riverbanks.

Along with the parade of fanciful hats, an abundance of Mint Juleps, and firework displays, the race is just one of many festivities and traditions associated with the Kentucky Derby Festival.

“The Kentucky Derby Cruise is one of my favorite sailings as it captures the magical energy of Louisville during race week,” explains John Waggoner, founder and chairman of American Queen Voyages.

The line’s Culinary Ambassador, Regina Charboneau, will join this special cruise, conducting live cooking demonstrations and preparing a special dinner for guests with her favorite dishes. The menu for the sailing includes such regional favorites as Louisville Hot Brown, Cincinnati Skyline Chili, and Pittsburgh Pierogies.

The Kentucky Derby is scheduled next year for May 6, 2023. Guests on the Kentucky Derby Cruise will be able to purchase an escorted VIP race package that includes deluxe transfers, fast pass access to the Churchill Downs racecourse, premium seating, plus food and an open bar.

All-inclusive fares for the Kentucky Derby Cruise (including ground transfers, unlimited beverages, an open bar, meals at multiple dining venues, entertainment, and unlimited Wi-FI) start at $2,999 per person. The escorted VIP Kentucky Derby Ticket Packages are an additional $1,999.

For more information, see the American Queen Voyages website.

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