About Us

About Us French America Line Executive Team

French America Line was created to bring a fresh and refined ambiance to cruising America’s waterways. Elegant yet casual, American yet with a decidedly French flair, the company is the vision of leaders in the travel industry who have worked tirelessly to bring their ideas to fruition. Today they are proud to present French America Line to the world of cruising.

Christopher Kyte Chairman

Christopher Kyte is an acknowledged leader in the travel and tour operator industry, with extensive background in creating distinctive shipping and luxury rail travel experiences. He began his career with Matson Lines in San Francisco and then went on to work with Sheraton Hotels and Abercrombie & Kent. He subsequently founded Uncommon Journeys in 1990, the nation’s premier operator of deluxe train tours throughout North America, and became a top producer for both Via Rail Canada and Amtrak. Among the successful luxury North American train products he created are the private trains Houston and Los Angeles, which were widely viewed as offering the finest service and dining in North America. Uncommon Journeys soon became a top producer for Cunard Line Ltd, Holland America Line and Delta Queen Steamboat Company and, later, Majestic America Line. Christopher then went on to become a co-founder, owner and the first President of the American Queen Steamboat Company, with the return to service of the legendary American Queen in April 2012. Most recently, Christopher tapped his expertly honed knowledge of high-value experiential travel to develop a new boutique American cruise line, Great Northern & Southern Navigation Company, LLC, known to consumers as French America Line.

D. Kendall Grigsby Chief Executive Officer

D. Kendall Grigsby has a diverse business background that includes banking, hotel management and operations, asset management, marketing, and advertising. In 1990 he met Christopher Kyte, who had just launched an intriguing business called Uncommon Journeys. It was a unique opportunity to join Christopher at a time that Uncommon Journeys was forging new ground in experiential travel, overseeing a company that operated trains that were essentially exclusive “boutique hotels on the rails.” At the outset, the company had just two rail cars that carried fewer than 10 guests, a staff of three and a daily overhead of $5,000 minimum. Yet it worked, effectively capturing the imagination of affluent travelers. The company has since expanded into additional travel programs, adding more celebrated destinations and cruise departures. Utilizing Amtrak rather than the costly private carriages resulted in exponential growth of the Train Holidays segment of the company. Ken was instrumental in establishing effective financial management and the resultant growth of Uncommon Journeys/Train Holidays, introducing a uniform system of accounting, controls and job costing to insure prosperous results from each individual tour. Ken now brings his business management expertise to his role as CEO of French America Line.

Kevin Griffin Director

Kevin Griffin first became involved with Great Lakes cruising in his university years, when he worked aboard the Canadian Pacific Great Lakes steamship Assiniboia. After the Great Lakes service ended, he went to work on the same company’s Princess Patricia, sailing from Vancouver to Alaska, and later for Canadian Pacific in Montreal. Upon graduating from the University of Western Ontario, Kevin went to work in the field of shipping. A qualified shipbroker since 1981, he has been active in international shipping, managed coastal trade Canadian flagships, headed start-up shipping projects and lectured in shipping management at McGill University. He also founded and operates his own cruise business in the UK. In 1984, he joined Fednav Limited, Canada's largest dry-bulk shipping group and largest ocean-going carrier on the Great Lakes. There, his projects included placing two Canadian-built roll-on-roll-off ships under US flag in order to carry military and commercial cargo between ports on the Great Lakes and Europe. In 1992, Kevin founded The Cruise People Ltd in London, England, as a wholesale and retail agent for niche cruise operators and shipping lines. From 1999 to 2002, he also chaired the Leading Cruise Agents of the UK, of which he is still a director. In 1995, he became involved with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, who had decided to build the Columbus, a cruise ship for the Great Lakes. Once in service, in 1997, he was asked to chair a seminar on Great Lakes cruising while on an overnight cruise across Lake Erie. In 2000, his company was appointed general passenger agent for Polsteam’s Great Lakes cargo service. From 2000 to 2012, Kevin was the European representative of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, an association of Canadian and US ports, towns and regions and the St Lawrence Seaway that is committed to supporting cruising on the Great Lakes. In June 2013 he joined Christopher Kyte, who had in 2012 succeeded in placing the overnight sternwheeler American Queen back into service on the Mississippi River. Kevin now serves as a shareholder and key adviser to French America Line.

Regina Charboneau Chef de Cuisine

An award-winning chef and author, Regina Charboneau studied in Paris before opening celebrated U.S. restaurants to worldwide acclaim. She now brings her boundless creativity and stunning flavor pairings to French America Line to craft French, Southern and continental cuisine that is unmatched on America's inland waterways. A native of Natchez, Mississippi, one of the country’s most charming antebellum destinations, she got her start in San Francisco where she launched the eponymous Regina's at the Regis and later the award-winning Biscuits & Blues nightclub. She returned to Natchez in 2001 and opened the Twin Oaks Bed and Breakfast in a historic home that dates to 1832, where she teaches cooking classes and serves as a warm and gracious host. Her latest venture is King's Tavern in Natchez, specializing in fresh farm-to-table selections. Under her deft touch, the refined and casually elegant dining experiences aboard the Louisiane are designed to be the finest afloat.

Christopher Tidmore Government & Community Relations

Christopher is Communications Director and a Board Member of the Louisiana Living History Foundation. Christopher has also served in public outreach positions for several non-profits and issue-based causes, and was a senior advisor to two U.S. Senatorial campaigns. Having hosted one of Louisiana’s top political talk shows and authored numerous political blogs and newspaper columns, he currently acts as Political Editor of The Louisiana Weekly. A native New Orleanian, Christopher first developed his love for public outreach while participating in National Catholic Forensics League Debate tournaments and Student Congresses. During his college years, he worked at the Leadership Institute in Washington D.C., the training ground for many young activists in the public arena, and served as the last research assistant to the late historian Dr. Stephen Ambrose of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, who founded what would become the National World War II Museum. In his first forays into the realm of public relations, Christopher served as a press aide for Republican Quentin Dastugue’s bid for Louisiana Governor in 1995 and as Regional Campaign Coordinator for Woody Jenkins’s 1996 run for U.S. Senate. In late 2002, Christopher took a leave of absence from his reporting work to serve as Communications Director for Republican Suzie Terrell in her race for the US Senate. After Hurricane Katrina, Christopher formed the news department at WRNO 99.5 FM, the state’s newest news/talk radio station. In 2007, Christopher took a break from the news and ran for the Louisiana Legislature from District 82, which encompasses parts of Uptown, Old Jefferson, and Metairie. Impressive for a first time candidate, he won 43% of the vote while being outspent 4-to-1. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Crimefighters, Inc., Louisiana's leading Victims Rights Organization. He continues to write a nationally syndicated column for the NNPA press association, and occasionally, also writes for the UK Guardian Newspaper. He has appeared on ABC-TV's Nightline and MSNBC-TV's Maddow Show as an expert political commentator.

GET MORE INFORMATION

Take a look at our latest brochures online, download an e-version, or order a printed copy.

VIEW BROCHURES

BE THE FIRST TO KNOW

Join our mailing list now for insider news, special sailings, our newsletter, and updates on our inaugural season.