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Marian Nusekabel 07-29-2006 01:11 PM

Rumors about modernizing boats
We were down to visit the MQ when it was in port July 24th. Some steamboaters who were also there visiting, told us that they heard when the MQ goes into drydock for the winter, the going to modernize the boat. They are getting rid of all the victorian decorations and using modern decor?? (how modern???) They are also installing TV's in every cabin. (I hope they remember to insulate the walls??) Some said telephones are suppose to be installed also. I guess there goes the beautiful brase hand rails and large victorian mirror on the MQ?
They said the AQ was also going to be redone. If they are trying to attract the younger generation with modernizing, forget that. Most couldn't afford the price. Heck, I can't afford steamboating any more! The Co. should gear their sales to the 55+, somehow lower their prices, and sell steamboating as a step back in time with Mark Twain emphazing our beautiful rivers as the central theme of steamboating not "wow", you will have a TV in your cabin!!!
Has anyone heard any rumors concerning remodeling the boats?

Elaine Santangelo 07-29-2006 04:20 PM

Hello Marian,

My oh my- will this ever openup discussions!

I have absolutely no facts just speculation. If they are planning an extended layup of the MQ, it may be because they are still having trouble filling 3 boats. Also, the MQ (and to a lesser extent the AQ) was in Delaware North's plans when it decided that they needed to attract families. The boats do provide family fun but in a step back in time way rather than with the latest in high tech toys.

Having TVs and telephones in every room can be viewed a few ways. The teenagers who would rather watch TV than the river may be sitting in the room. The telephone could also be viewed as a convenience although with today's cell phones, I can't even see phones in steamboats rooms as good emergency measures. Personally, I think the company wastes its money by putting those amenities in the rooms. But perhaps their market research is telling them differently. Some marketing guru might have sold them the concept that the boats will be filled if they offer the same bells and whistles as cruise ships. Personally, I don't buy it.

I think I speak for the vast majority of participants on this forum when I say- that is not how we want to go steamboatin' up and down the river.

In any business, it is impossible to please all the people all of the time. But, the boats are not really broken and don't need to be fixed. The fact that profits have not been huge in the past 10 years can be attributed to many many factors. But I would rather see (yes I am biased) a better pay and benefits package for crew before spending money on televison and electronic equipment. What's next? Electronic slot machines? Video Games? Canned music? Buffet meals? (I am not knocking buffet meals but for handicapped and elderly, buffet meals are a nightmare.)

The dream of riding the boats is the step back in time. That unique quality along with the best service in the industry (bar none) - that is what should be and could be filling up the boats.

I did not bring up the price break because I have very mixed feelings on that. Personally, I simply cannot afford to ride the boats especially as a single. But, if I could afford them, would I argue as much over the price? Maybe or maybe I would wait for the sale price or ask what discounts are available. But, either way, I sure would not ride the boats to watch TV!


David Dewey 07-29-2006 05:32 PM

Egads! My family runs a 1920s resort (with some modern rooms) and one of the "attractions" of the 1920s vacation cabins is the lack of telephone and TV. Those customers who want to be connected can use their cell phones (good luck getting coverage in the Sacramento River canyon!). Hmm, but I do admit that my brother has installed an area wireless system, so you can sit in your cabin and connect your laptop to the web. Hmmm, maybe that would be an OK addition to the boats, no one would see it.
Whew, when I saw this thread title, I thought, "WHAT?? Put a dismal in the hold to run the wheel???? AAAAUUUGH Blasphemy!!!"
They'd better not touch the DQ! :)
David D.

Elaine Santangelo 07-29-2006 07:41 PM

As I read your post, another thought occurred to me. When the steamboats decided to market to families, it made more board games available. Perhaps, instead of modernizing, they should increase the library space on the boats. Sitting on the deck reading a good book with glances up to see the sights- that is a vacation!

As for modernizing on the DQ too- well there goes the neighborhood. What would they be thinking!

Oh, I also think they need more jigsaw puzzle space on all 3 boats. I have considered mailing the boat my steamboat jigsaw puzzles except for the one from the Barbara and Steve. I do that one over and over.

Also, I still say spend money on staff because they are part of the package that lure the passengers into being repeat passengers. Sure, a person shouldn't not book just because their friend is not working there. But, on the other hand, doesn't it feel great to go on a vacation where people remember your name and ask how you have been? It is like visiting family without all the problems of visiting family. Well, if the boats want to retain good crew, they have to be good to the crew like any land-based company. If you figure that working the boats is a job is a job is a job- well, that is the mentality that hurts USA productivity.

So, my advise to Ambassador on modernization is forget eliminating old Victorian decore, forget TVs- consider what draws people in- the entertainment, the service, and most of all the river itself. Cut deals with the airlines- deals with the trains- do what you can to get people booking the cruises. They are not coming as an alternative to a Carnival Cruise or a Disney Adventure. They are coming for the adventure of riverboat travel. And about all they really have to pack is a few changes of clothing and their camera.


Jim Herron 07-29-2006 09:20 PM

Well, if "modernization" is in the plans, how far behind could the big, bad word "dieselization" be? A diesel power plant would no doubt be more economical but, for me, it would destroy all the appeal of these boats. The AQ is bacically a hybrid at best and runs without it's steam engines with no problem but MQ and especially the DQ are pure steam boats. Since DN or the new company got rid of the spare engine components, I've been expecting to hear this would happen to the DQ, if not actual retirement.

If it is retired, perhaps an effort should be made to acquire the DQ by a group of subscribers and operate it under their own flag; a kind of time share organization if enough subscribers could be found. Of course, they would have to contend with the coming renewal of it's congressional exemption. 285 people @ $1,000 per week x a 40 week annual schedule would raise $11,400,000 per year. Would that be enough to buy, operate and maintain the DQ? Could the required 11,400 subscribers be found? If so, that would give each subscriber an effective rate of $142.85 per day, a big savings. Food for thought! Comments and ideas most definitely welcomed.
-Jim Herron

Carmen 07-30-2006 04:23 AM


On our cruise there were rumors that the MQ will be refurbished while winter lay-up. There was nothing said about how she will be refurbished. During our cruise we received a booklet called "The Mississippi Queen A Magnificent River Lady - A 30th Anniversary Retrospective * 1976 - 2006" by Brian M. Hughes. Let me quote out of this booklet:

"The Mississippi Queenīs sleek, glistening white exterior was punctuated by splashes of green from Plexiglas panels set in selct rails. Staterooms were simple and unadorned, relying instead on brightly patterned bedclothes to provide texture and contrast. Public areas had modern tubular steel furnishings, etched glass and mirrors, and brass accents." and "Guests were dazzled by the profusion of chrome, glass and plushness that surrounded them. Service was first-rate, the cuisine excellent and staterooms, though sparsely decorated, in keeping with the designersī "less-is-more" philosophy of the day, were still comfortable, if not opulent."

This was 1976. Then..

"In 1988, Equity Group Investments began a multi-year program of refurbishment to the Mississippi Queen, guided by their senior architect Al Luthmers. The first round of renovations cost $2.5 million, and war largely motivated by the comments from Steamboaters who didnīt share the Mississippi Queenīs creatorsīdesign philosophy. Brass and chrome were out, no matter how authentic to the boatīs 1970s origins. Passengers wanted the fru-fru and ornament of a good, olī fashioned Mark Twain Victorian riverboat. Applying it to the boatīs markedly boxlike design was a challange, but soon the ornate curlicues and pressed-tin ceilings of the late 1880s appeared, the green Plexiglass was removed, and new exterior signage and graphics proclaimed the boatīs historic lineage."

So as we read there, the MQ came out with a modern design and by the request of the passengers it was later changed to the Victorian style we can see now.

By the way Iīm asking myself where to put a TV in a cabin. Iīd even find no place for a flat screen (LCD or Plasma). And telephones (onboard) are installed already. I donīt think a ship-to-shore service is really necessary with all the cell phones.

To be honest the MQ urgently needs a refurbishment. The interior is not in a really good shape like worn out and stained carpets all over the boat, chair covers are stained and chairs are partly broken and more. You canīt claim the new prices with a boat looking like that. These are the first points mentioned in each critic/review.

I truly hope they wonīt change to a modern design which didnīt really work out 30 years ago. And I doubt itīll work out now. Build in closets, make the beds higher so you can put a suitcase underneath the beds for storage. Get rid of those metal chests of drawers. TVs are not really necessary, maybe a minibar in the AA / AAA rooms. A permanently installed hair dryer would be nice instead of that loose travel size thing. Also a hotel like hang-up storage place for the iron board and iron. There are many small things which would help much.


Jim Blum 07-30-2006 03:40 PM

As I recall the ONA (Overseas national Airways) folks had ties to designers in England. The QE 2 (1969) was the latest and best (?) afloat at the time. A lot of the inspiration for the MQ interior came from the QE 2, for example the curved staircases in the Paddlewheel Bar. (the Hinkley brothers)

During the same period Bill Muster (California) and Betty Blake were an important part of the design process. Anyone remember the glass desk in Betty Blake's office on 4th street?

The blue and green plexiglass on the top deck might have been hip for the time, but sure cut down on the ventilation for those sitting on those plastic strip sled chairs!

Look at photos of the hair, clothes, automobile styles of the day and one can get an idea of how the original MQ was outfitted when she came out.

No critizem, no apology, no personal comment on the design, just a few random thoughts on the times and seasons of the late 60's and early 70's.

Marian Nusekabel 07-30-2006 04:37 PM

I think they were thinking of hanging the tv's on the walls? I agree the MQ needs refrurbishing, but I hope they leave the brass hand rails and her unique majestic quality. That MODERN word scares me!! Don't try to make our steamboats into cruise ships! Yes, I like the suggestion for the luggage! I suggest to the Home Office that they ask the steamboaters what changes they want on the boats. After all who understands and loves the boats more than us!! Time will tell.

Bob Reynolds 07-30-2006 07:15 PM

Marian, Carmen, Jim: All good observations. I remember hearing from Sharon's grandfather that when the MQ was on the drawing boards, a contingent from the company (Muster?) came aboard the DQ to show passengers what the new boat would be. Mr. Shrake said they were literally booed when they showed the slides of the proposed boat. One of many mistakes the designers made was not having promenade space for passengers. Many things have been changed and/or rectified on the MQ, but this is one thing that has not and probably cannot be chaged.

I personally feel TV is not needed. The only possible reason I can come up with is that if they are trying to market to younger people, they might have a DVD library for folks to choose to watch DVD's at night instead of the live entertainment, some of which might not appeal to a younger audience. If so, they'll cut down on those bar bills!

While I personally never cared for the MQ, it, and all the boats, have their ardent fans. I agree with what's been said here that the company should capitalize on those feelings and work toward selling the unique experience of "Voyages to America".

Judy Patsch 07-30-2006 07:45 PM

I've sent Franz several pix comparing the MQ before and after the first renovation. He was busy building something for Leonie today, but hopefully will be able to post them soon. As to the walking area Bob mentions, or lack thereof, remember that the Promenade Deck(5) was just that - you could actually walk completely around the boat on that deck. And there was space on that bow to stand and watch lockings, etc. Then in the winter layup 83/84 they superglued those premade 'luxury' rooms on that deck, effectively wiping out any outside viewing areas, save your own veranda. Not only did those rooms cover the 5th deck, but they blocked a view from the lounging area on the roof too... and then there's the view or lack thereof from the pilothouse created by those two forward suites....

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