American Symphony, launched for the first time, makes a big splash. Image: Deni Mcjilton

VIDEO: Ches. Shipbuilding Splashes its Heaviest Riverboat Yet

Chesapeake Shipbuilding is steadily cranking out brand-new American Cruise Lines riverboats right on the Wicomico River in Salisbury, Md. And when one of those vessels first enters the water from the shipyard, the neighbors are well aware of it.

The company recently splashed its newest build, American Symphony—the heaviest boat it has ever launched by about 20 tons. That’s because American Symphony was outfitted with more system-related materials than any previous vessel, Chesapeake Shipbuilding President Steve McGee tells Bay Bulletin.

Deni Mcjilton, who owns a townhouse directly across the Wicomico from the shipyard, filmed the big splash from her balcony … and we do mean big splash. Watch below:

Video: Deni Mcjilton, Editing: Cheryl Costello

Mcjilton tells us she and several neighbors watched the launch from their balconies, even though it was 6:30 a.m. on a Monday. Chesapeake Shipbuilding doesn’t publicize upcoming launches due to liability, but they do send staff over to the private townhouse community property to make sure people stay safely back from the dock. Mcjilton says the condo association gets about a 2-3 day heads up that one of the launches (and its accompanying tsunami-like wave) are coming.

It’s the third launch she’s witnessed since moving into her townhouse.

“The first launch we saw was such a cool experience for us,” she says. “To hear the lineman yelling cut 1 and then see the welding, cut 2, final cut,  then the air horn and sound of the ship sliding and then hitting the water, plus you FEEL the vibration in your feet—there is nothing like it. And we feel the same excitement with every launch since. The thrill just never gets old.”

Mcjilton says she loves living across from the shipyard, despite some skepticism from others. “Watching the ships get built and launched from start to finish is something we really enjoy.”

American Symphony is a sister ship to American Melody, which Chesapeake Shipbuilding delivered in August 2021. Both vessels are specifically designed for the Mississippi River. They’re advertised as having panoramic views and staterooms ranging from 250 to 650 square feet with private balconies and breakfast room service.

Chesapeake Shipbuilding announced in January it will be building a dozen new small cruise ships for American Cruise Lines, creating additional jobs in Wicomico County. Cheryl Costello visited the yard and saw construction underway.

-Meg Walburn Viviano