(1:25 p.m. EDT) -- American Queen Steamboat Company, which has been sailing with several vessels on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers since March, will return to the Pacific Northwest for vaccinated sailings in June. The cruises on American Empress begin June 14, two weeks ahead of when the line was going to require vaccination. But having a fully vaccinated ship was part of the concessions that the line worked out with the state of Washington, AQSC President Shawn Bierdz said. "We moved that (requirement) up two sailings," Bierdz told Cruise Critic in an interview Monday. The move was an easy one to make, however, as the line has already been seeing that 70 percent of its passengers are vaccinated, Bierdz said. AQSC was one of the first cruise lines in North America to announce it would require vaccines for all crew and passengers, back in February. "That's in mid-April," he said. "It's only going to get higher." As the current ships American Duchess and American Countess sail, crew members have been getting off in various ports to receive vaccines; 60 percent are already vaccinated, Bierdz said.Passengers on the current sailings, which are capacity controlled, have been taking the new protocols in stride. "We've had a lot of positive feedback," Biedrz said, adding that masks are being worn onboard in situations similar to what people are used to at home. "They are excited to come back." ### American Queen Flagship ReturnAmerican Queen Steamboat Company was one of a group of cruise lines that had been on twice-weekly calls with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention throughout April, hammering out the current guidelines. The CDC would like cruise lines to have at least 95 percent of crew and 98 percent of passengers vaccinated; AQSC will be surpassing that benchmark with 100 percent of both in July, Bierdz said. The line plans to put its flagship, American Queen, back into service sometime in July. "We are very confident," he said. "We are working now to crew up." Initially, the 417-passenger ship has been booked with 285 guests, or 70 percent occupancy. It, as well as all of the ships in the AQSC fleet, is mostly sold out for 2021, Bierdz said. "April through October are sold out," he said, noting bookings are pushing heavily into 2022 as well. The company had one of its best weeks ever last week, he said. ### Pivots Possible If NecessaryWith the return of its fleet, AQSC is continuing to monitor COVID-19 outbreaks and local restrictions as they happen, and the line has the ability to pivot if needed. Oregon, for example, is under a new wave of lockdowns, although what is occurring now probably will be long over by the time cruises resume in June. "We have three states that we can operate (American Empress) -- Oregon, Washington and Idaho," Bierdz said. "Obviously things are changing very rapidly … if (lockdowns do) happen, we can pivot." He said the current sailings on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers have not been affected by COVID-19 cases on land in those regions. "We maintain contact with all of our ports and get the earliest possible news," he said.Want to read reviews of AQSC since sailings resumed in March? Read Cruise Critic's
. And check out our March experience onboard American Countess' first sailing.