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Like the British colonisers before them, the Vikings have been threatening for years to enter the American river cruise market.

And like the Americans before them, one local river cruise player has begun ramping up its defences.

American Cruise Lines, the longest active company in the domestic market, has five vessels and is positioning itself to get an edge above anyone else who enters the market.

Owner and CEO Charles Robertson, who also owns the Chesapeake Shipyard, has given the line a leg up by giving ACL a place to build ships.

According to U.S federal laws, all American ships must be built in the country and be staffed by Americans. This has meant that many international lines, like Viking River Cruises, the largest river company in the world, has struggled to put ships in the United States.

Mr Robertson predicted that the American domestic river market is on the verge of major change as well as expansion with the addition of more luxury river ships.

Last year, ACL added the first modern ship to the fleet. The American Song was built in the style of a luxury European luxury ship, but much bigger. Some suites are as large as 800 and 900 square feet. The cabins have large balconies and other modern luxury amenities which have been missing from American river ships, which were renovated or replica paddlewheelers. The new ships from ACL also are much more eco-friendly, which Mr Robertson says is important in attracting new to cruising.

He also told Travel Weekly that he believes that the full potential of American river cruising has barely been tapped.

“People are more interested in staying home and discovering America,” he said. “And our modern boats have struck a very receptive chord.”

Pete Larson from jolly Mon Vacations and River Cruise Guru told Travel Weekly that he said American cruising is an “amazing product”, but the price point makes it less appealing than sailing the rivers of Asia or Europe where cruise lines can tap into much lower-cost labour markets.

“Cruises here are higher priced than their European rivals,” he told Travel Weekly.

“They are considered luxury cruises, but most of the ships are older paddlewheelers or steamboats. They certainly have an old-world charm but are far from the luxury ships of Europe.”

The American Song launched last year with sold out sailings on the Mississippi and she will be repositioned to the Northwest of the country. The second ship, the American Harmony will launch later this year and a third in 2020.