american cruise lines' queen of the Mississippi paddlewheel boat

(1:29 p.m. EST) -- American Cruise Lines will expand its North American river cruise program with a "fleet" of "modern" riverboats. The line presently operates two paddlewheelers on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, as well as the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the United States, and has more Victorian-style paddlewheelers coming.

According to the company, the new riverboats will offer a more contemporary design than the paddlewheelers and coastal ships that the current fleet comprises. The boats will feature open deck plans that allow for more natural light and unobstructed views, cabins with furnished balconies, a glass-enclosed lounge with panoramic views and a variety of outdoor public spaces.

The line did not say how many new ships will be built, nor which rivers they will sail, but company spokeswoman Britt Rabinovici told Cruise Critic there will be multiple ships, which will sail new itineraries, in addition to rivers the company already plies.

--By Dori Saltzman, News Editor