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Carmen 06-13-2006 04:56 AM

AI buys another vessel
 
Ambassadors International has acquired another vessel. Itīs the 49-passenger Executive Explorer last operated by Glacier Bay Cruiseline which filed for Chapter 11 last year. The owners of Glacier Bay Cruiseline also own Great American River Journeys which was operating the Columbia Queen. Great American River Journeys havenīt filed for Chapter 11 yet. But you may remember that AI has taken over the mortgage from MARAD for the Columbia Queen.

See

[url]http://www.modernagent.com/x/modernagent/visitor/resources/editorial.cds?n=13618[/url]

for details.

Carmen

Robert W. Smith 06-13-2006 07:13 AM

The way AI is going buying these ships it does scare me if they are trying to do away with the competion. Yes it makes sense west coast to mid but will they give the Delta the proper respect that it deserves along with the AQ and MQ.

Elaine Santangelo 06-13-2006 09:24 AM

There is a company in Rhode Island called Cruise America. The web site is [url]www.smallships.us[/url]. 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.

Cheers
Elaine

Robert Lee Wilson 06-14-2006 09:51 AM

Well, I can only guess that all of the Delaware North "ex officioes" and criticizers will be hard to find, as will be the participation and cooperation that was extended by the immediate past president of Detla Queen. I hope that my pessimistic forsight is in error, but the statement from AI in the article on the purchase of the new ship, e.g., "guests who place a premium on combining unique travel experiences with high level of comfort and service", translates to me that "river rats" and moderate income need not apply. So farewell to that bad, nasty, and unappreciated Delaware North and hello to the new AI with your wallets and checkbooks open.

Elaine Santangelo 06-14-2006 12:29 PM

Not sure if this should be posted here or responding to Alan Bates but I admit that as a crew member, I could not figure out the fee structure at all. When everyone I know has asked me why I don't go back as a passenger now, I frequently reply that I could not afford it. When they would ask, how much is it? I would reply, "I am not really sure." They would look at me funny for a moment. Then I would explain that it is very similar to buying airline tickets today except that since one will be aboard the boat for approximately a week, one has to also factor in the tips and extra cash-type spending.

There is a very funny email that circulated a few years ago using the example of a person buying a can of paint to paint one room. The price kept changing depending on if he needed one coat or two coats, painted the hallway as well as the room, painted on the weekend or the weekday, had others helping with the painting, etc etc. In the end, the person decided NOT to paint the room.

Well, vacations can be like that too. Since the base price is so high, many quit before they start. If one vacations at a hotel, the rates also get quoted in a variable fashion so the boats are not that different. But I do agree- River Rats and those on a tight budget need not apply. But that has always been true whether it was Delaware North, Ambassador, or American Classic Voyages.

One of the things that always interests me is sales tax since I live in a state without it. It is great to buy something and the price is what it says on the tag. That was also true in Europe where the tax had already been added into the price. The area where that changes is meals and food. Food purchased at a grocery store is usually tax-free everywhere. But restaurants frequently have a meal tax. Now that most grocery stores are getting more and more restaurant style in the Deli and Bakery departments, they are sometimes subjected to meals taxes. That gets confusing again.

I still believe that if we could figure out the timeshare model in a practical way, that might be an affordable option. I hate time shares and time share salespeople. But, imagine of a cooperative purchased a stateroom and timeshared it. OK maybe it is too complicated and would turn out to be as costly.

Cheers
Elaine

Alan Bates 06-16-2006 04:53 AM

Businesses that grow too fast are obliged to do so with borrowed money. Time after time we see firms expand on other peoples' cash until their debts become insoluble. Notably it has happened to the big airlines, but other industries are equally vulnerable and guilty. Steamboats are no exception.

Robert W. Smith 06-16-2006 09:53 AM

I think you have hit nail right on the head.


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