Portrait of the Hamel Family: entrepreneurs and navigators, from father to son

A pioneer in the cruise-excursion market in the Province of Quebec, the Hamel Family successfully transformed and diversified its services to offer passengers a unique experience aboard the Croisières AML vessels. Present in ten ports in the Province of Quebec and its seven regions, the family business is constantly renewing and innovating.

The maritime adventure began in 1972 for Guy Hamel and his son Édouard. Father and son acquired Compagnie Excursion Maritime de Québec, (founded in Quebec City in 1948) and its boat: the Duke d’Orléans. The Hamels decide to buy a second ship, the M/V Louis Jolliet in 1976 which, after major renovations, would become the largest tour-excursion boat in Canada, with a capacity of 1000 passengers. This was an important year for the Hamel clan, as Guy's second son, Yves, decides to join the family business.

The Hamel Family is in growth mode and in 1981acquires Chantier Maritime de L'Isle-aux-Coudres in Charlevoix. The shipyard was sold in 1997 after being modernized, contributing significantly to the development of Croisières AML.

The 80’s

The 1980’ s, a period marked by the popularity of disco, was the perfect opportunity for the company to establish itself in a large metropolis and offer evening cruises where passengers could dance the night away. In 1987, via Croisières du Port de Montréal Inc., Groupe AML acquires three new boats with capacities ranging from 90 to 400 passengers.

In the midst of its growth, Groupe AML added two other vessels when it created Les Navettes Maritimes du Saint-Laurent in 1991-1992 .This Company provided a link between the bicycle paths of the Island of Montreal, Î Ie Ste-Hélène and Longueuil, which facilitates transportation in the metropolitan area. In fact, Les Navettes Maritimes is an ecological alternative to the problem of transportation during rush hour for Montreal’s south shore.


Innovation is an integral part of the Hamel family’s DNA. In the early 1990’ s, Croisières AML launched a unique dinner cruise concept aboard its vessels with departures in Quebec City and Montreal. The family business decides to modernize and renovate its boats by installing kitchens. Today, more than 120,000 meals are prepared and served annually on the vessels, which include the AML Cavalier Maxim and the AML Louis Jolliet.

The new bistronomic change is very popular with the clientele. Passengers are delighted with this unique dinner cruise experience. Imagine a 3-course, 5-course, Tapis rouge or Signature dinner cruise, aboard a boat that cruises the St. Lawrence River at sunset! It’s the ideal place to celebrate a special occasion, or the perfect setting for lovers to unite their destiny!


In 1994, Groupe AML is awarded the Saint-Laurent prize, presented by the Société de développement économique du Saint-Laurent (SODES), for its pioneering role in the cruise-excursion sector. In 2004 and 2005, Croisières AM is awarded the Grand Prix du tourisme national, in the Restoration and Tourism category. In 2021, the award of the tourism industry of the year, as part of the Fidéides de la Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Québec is also awarded to Croisières AML. These awards confirm the quality of the onboard experience and service as well as the company’s reputation in this field.

Well established, the family business makes new acquisitions. The fleet now includes Les Croisières aux Sentinelles du Saint-Laurent Inc., and the most important cruise operator in Charlevoix, Les Croisières Navimex Inc. This double transaction allows Groupe AML to become the leading whale watching cruise operator in the Province of Quebec. These changes led Groupe AML to adopt a new name, Croisières AML.

A few years later, the family business acquires Croisières à la Baleine et au Saguenay, Croisière de la Baie de Tadoussac and Croisières Express. The size of the Zodiac fleet is increased with these acquisitions.

Challenges and resilience

Croisières AML has the wind in its sails, but suffers its first setback in 1996, when the Saguenay River flooded. The weather conditions made life difficult for the company. As Yan Hamel, son of Édouard Hamel, and President and CEO of Croisières AML points out: customers board the ships depending on the weather. For Guy Hamel’s grandson, it was necessary to consider diversifying the company’s activities and modifying its service offer.

Since then, the range of products offered by Croisières AML has been constantly renewed. New cruises were created and departures are now offered in new ports.

In 2012 the company acquires 50% of Croisières Lachance. This new partnership allows AML to anchor in a new port in the Province of Quebec, Berthier-sur-Mer.

In a strategic diversification mode, year 2013 was marked by the acquisition of three Groupe AML competitors: Les Croisières 2001, Le Groupe Dufour and Les Croisières Le Coudrier. With the purchase of three new boats, the AML fleet is reinvigorated.

In 2022, its subsidiary Navettes Maritimes du Saint-Laurent is revived with the deployment, in the Capitale-Nationale region, of the first public river transportation link between Old Quebec and Ste-Anne de Beaupré.

Transition and passion

In 2006, Yan Hamel takes over the company and becomes President and CEO. Committed to the development of tourism in the Province of Quebec among other things, he sits, since 2009, on the board of directors of the Association québécoise de l'industrie touristique (AQIT) which, by merging with the ATR Associées du Québec and ATS Québec, became in 2016, Alliance de l’industrie touristique du Québec (AITQ). 

A long-time believer in the benefits of a united industry, Yan sees the birth of Alliance as the materialisation of the unification of the tourism industry and the beginning of a new era of collaboration that promises great progress for the sector. He wishes to put his experience as an entrepreneur, his years of consultation and the relationships developed with the federal and provincial governments, to good use. His actions illustrate his dedication to the Quebec tourism industry and his commitment to preserving the family’s legacy in business.

Yan's passion is reflected in the operations of Croisières AML. Since he took over the family business, where he spent most of his summers until graduating in industrial engineering, the businessman has focused on diversifying his clientele. Croisières AML offers a variety of products to please a wide range of customers such as: adventure cruises, festive holiday cruises, dinner cruises, fireworks cruises, to name but a few.

The heritage of the family business is ensured, thanks to the involvement of Yan Hamel’s brother Loïc. The youngest member of the Hamel Family made his debut at Croisières AML.

Starting as a deckhand, he climbed the ladder to become Master Seaman on the AML Louis Jolliet, where he was responsible for several tasks including mechanics, while studying industrial engineering at college.

Dedicated and concerned about the success of the business, Loïc was entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating Zodiac operations in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park sector, while pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in engineering, operations management and logistics at École de technologie supérieure. (ETS)

His expertise in asset maintenance management and operations management led him to become more involved in various sectors of the company, allowing him to manage the operations of the entire company.

Passionate about engineering and business, Loïc Hamel specialized by completing a Master’s Degree in international projects and global engineering. He subsequently joined this brother Yan in the management of Croisières AML as Vice President Operations in 2013. Today he is more involved than ever in the family business, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022.

The two brothers, sole shareholders of Croisières AML, share a passion for sailing that was passed down from their father and grandfather. At that time, their grandfather Guy built sailboats in the family barn. His son Edouard, their father, turned this hobby into a successful business model.

The founders of Groupe AML would be proud to see their legacy passed on from generation to generation. In 2012, it was with great sadness that one of the patriarchs of the family business, Edouard Hamel, passed away at the age of 64. The company would not have been the same without this exceptional, determined, loyal, authentic and generous man. With the help of his father Guy, his brother Yves and his sons Yan and Loïc, Edouard actively participated in the creation and evolution of the most important cruise-excursion company in Canada.

A successful company

Group AML is the number 1 cruise-excursion company in Canada with a fleet of 25 vessels operating in the Province of Quebec. The 50-year-old family business continues to develop.

Fifty years later, Guy, Édouard, Yves, Yan and Loïc Hamel, developed a company that has grown from 7 employees to over 700 in high season. More than 650,000 passengers are transported annually.

Faithful to its values, the company has kept its head office in Old Quebec and also has offices in Montreal, Baie-Ste-Catherine and Tadoussac. Croisières AML’s vessels allow Quebecers and tourists from all over the world to discover the majestic St. Lawrence River, the magnificent landscapes of the Province of Quebec as well as the incredible marine mammals.

The company's success is measured by the diversification of its services. Over the years, Croisières AML has carved out its place in the Quebec tourism industry. With its ever-growing activities and expertise in the maritime field, the family business has developed a long-term vision, thanks to its concern for sustainable development.

A true Quebec flagship, Croisières AML is an essential part of the tourism landscape in many destinations along the St-Lawrence River.

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