At Seatrade, cruise lines often use the gathering of industry honchos and media to make big announcements and in this case American Cruise Lines, a Guilford, Connecticut-based U.S.-flagged small-ship line, made a biggie.

The line has a fleet of small ships carrying less than 101 passengers, and focuses primarily on cruising American waterways. But the announcement that it will be building two new ships, carrying 130 passengers and featuring more luxury amenities than it has in the past, indicates that the company is expanding and evolving.

The ships are slated for delivery in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

In a departure for the line, these will initially cruise beyond American borders, with the first, as-yet-unnamed vessel offering itineraries in the Canadian Maritimes, the Caribbean and Central America.

Staterooms will measure a generous 240 to 360 square feet (most featuring balconies) and come equipped with satellite television and Internet connections; ships will feature four passenger lounges, a theater and lecture facility, a fully equipped spa, and a dining salon that can accommodate all passengers at one time.

Other itineraries being considered by the line include trips to the British Isles, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, South America and the Pacific.

Currently, American Cruise Lines' ships include the 49-passenger American Eagle (launched in 2000), the 49-passenger American Glory (built in 2002) and its newest vessel -- the 100-passenger American Spirit, which debuted last year. An American Spirit sibling is under construction and will begin sailing in 2007. Itineraries for these vessels typically focus on waterways of New England and the Maine Coast, the Antebellum South, the rivers of Florida, New York's Hudson River and the mid-Atlantic's Chesapeake Bay.

Photo appears courtesy of American Cruise Lines.