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Old 06-13-2006, 10:24 AM
Elaine Santangelo Elaine Santangelo is offline
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 200

There is a company in Rhode Island called Cruise America. The web site is Their claim to fame is cruising where the big ships cannot. They have very limited entertainment options because they consider the journey itself entertainment. I do not know how financially successful they are but based on the limited number of marketing materials I receive, I suspect they are doing fine.

My knowledge of them is partly because I considered a job with them. Now, even though they do not have the ambiance or tradition of a steamboat paddle-wheeler, many tourists go for their kind of adventure. Thus, I consider them the true competitors to Ambassador where I used to tell people that competition for the DQ was a trip to Mackinaw Island in Michigan.

There are also several other small companies here in New England that offer small ship or boat adventures because I considered all of them at some point in time although the average age of crew members on them is my kids' ages.

However, it is still about bookings and capturing the market. If Ambassador can align themselves with travel agents and also do some independent sales and marketing and have customer service agents who are carefully listening to what the customer wants, they might be able to provide custom vacations. The other travel and tourist industry leader who does this well is Disney. If you want a Disney vacation, you will be asked everything about the demographics of what you want from ages to activities to celebrity-based to quiet to physical adventures etc etc. If any company wanted to duplicate Disney's success, they would aquire everything they need and start to consider their marketing strategies to try and be all things to all people. They might even have an advertising slogan- "When you think of a boat ride, think of us."

So, even though I suspect that people may sometimes be disapointed with some aspects like food quality, the ultimate result may be a consistently excellent product. Also, if we are really lucky, an affordable price tag as well. However, remember the lessons of WalMart and how even along the rivers and visiting the many small towns. The mom-pop shops are gone and have been replaced by the WalMart store. Even the small outdoor cafe run by a family is now a MacDonalds. We can't always have it both ways.

However, I would love to hear from someone within Ambassador for information on their plans.

When DN owned the boats, I refused to think in a negative fashion despite the fact that their heavy emphasis on gambling and sporting events made me question the ultimate direction of things. I really do think Katrina changed everything on that just as 9/11 changed everything. People blame the expansion of American Classic Voyages for the demise of DQSC but it was combined with 9/11 that caused that bankruptcy. While I certainly agree that Hawaiian cruises and the competition in the Northeast (see my mention of small ships as one example) contributed, it was the drying up of tourist dollars and people's fear of flying that hit after 9/11 that had a huge impact. Likewise Katrina just blew away the New Orleans tourist market and even though the boats travelled far more north than New Orleans, the perception of outsiders was that they are New Orleans paddlewheelers.

Ambassador may actually end up in a stronger position in the long run. But with their debt load, I would not expect too many bargains.

One other aspect that I will be curious about will be the "leave it alone- it ain't broke" attitude that Ambassador will encounter from crew and repeat passengers. I want to see what Ambassador will do when it encounters that.

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