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R. Dale Flick 05-24-2017 08:24 AM

*MOR/S&D on AMERICAN QUEEN/ACL. 'Luxury market.'*
Morning, Steamboating colleagues:
Recent E=Mails/conversations mentioned to me that a number of our well-known S&D & MOR fellow members recently enjoyed cruises on the AMERICAN QUEEN and then the ACL boat on the Columbia River. So far no 'reports or reviews' of their experiences here on We used to read posted reviews here way back on river cruises here and there.

A recent travel industry study focuses on the "luxe travel market" where now passengers "Buy on emotion and not buy on price." Those with higher disposable incomes in this group. Most luxury cruises and cabins/suites on boats/ships sell out first at the top and then down. Some factors--and economics--play into these spending habits:
*Exclusivity: This cruise isn't available to everyone or explores out-of-the-way destinations or a 'special interest theme cruises.'
*Features: Is the cruise exciting, beautiful, unique amenities, tours/lectures?
*Status: Does this cruise make you one of the top? Are you a cut above?
*Recognition: You've worked hard to get where you are and this cruise/vessel proves all you've done.

Yet, many in this position DO watch their disposable dollars carefully--and expect/demand top value in return. Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald said that "The rich are different from you and me," to which Earnest Hemingway replied "Yes, they have more money." It all begs the questions: what is real luxury and what defines wealth?" Cruise boats and ships, hotels, resorts etc. appeal to this niche market. Let's not knock larger cabins, fine bed linens/towels, TV/Internet, food until we try it. Expectations go in hand with ability to pay. So, who will step up and tell about their recent AMERICAN QUEEN and ALC cruises? Anybody on a recent VIKING RIVER or VIKING OCEAN cruise? Again, what do I know?

R. Dale Flick
Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.

Jim Reising 05-24-2017 11:58 AM

Apparently the American Queen people think that a new "all suite" vessel defines luxury and people will pay to experience it. People's tastes have changed, look at yourself, when traveling do you stay at the mom & pop motel from the 50's or at the Marriot Garden Inn....there's a lot more Garden Inn's than there are mom & pop's anymore.

Bob Reynolds 05-24-2017 02:53 PM

True enough, Jim. Yet I continue to enjoy the charm of the Lafayette in Marietta, with its upgrades. There are other quaint places to eat and stay that I enjoy also. I'm hoping the market is there for all these boats. To me the key is the type of trip folks at a town when you wake up and stay there all day, or be on the river with short stops at INTERESTING places, not just stopping because there's a place to stop. I really couldn't care less about stopping in Helena, Arkansas or Henderson, KY.

R. Dale Flick 05-24-2017 04:56 PM

*AQ & ACL 'sold out'/Only money*
Steamboating colleagues:
Thanks Jim Reising and Capt. Bob Reynolds for observations/comments above. Yes, I agree also about 'quaintness' linked to 'interesting places.' And 'how are you going to keep em down on the farm after they've seen Paducah, Ky?' Or even Buffalo,W.Va for that matter? Buffalo, W.Va. by boat years ago fascinating, quaint, honest people in my estimation. Locals even held a little street fair with booths, tables offering local crafed materials, quilts, pillows stuffed for sale.

For kicks the other day, I tooled around with GOOGLE and other internet search engines typing in, calling up more than a few river cruise lines here and abroad. Very, very interesting to see what amenities offered, price range, vessel plans/layout, cruise stops--and what we term these "luxury" factors. Surprised to see that AMERICAN QUEEN is already booked up and 'SOLD OUT' for many to most future cruises. ACL [American Cruise Line] requires more 'digging' to get/see data. They also booked/booking up according to a friend/colleague who works for ACL. TV, magazines, internet sites show increasing dandy full color ads for the AQ, ACL, VIKING, other river lines in Europe. With the present situation abroad marked with political instability, terrorism, economic issues we see river and ocean cruise lines increasing in popularity. This not so much now for 'millenials' but the aging 'baby boomers' with the disposable incomes. And I'm one already too old to qualify as a 'baby boomer.'

'Luxury' can be a nebulous term so often applied to various this n' that that don't deserve the word. Yet, larger cabins, full baths, air-conditioning and other HAV factors, lower double beds, some private verandas, bath robes, thick weave bed linens, TV/WIFI/Internet, 1st class menu offerings, some complimentary red/white wine on and on are automatically designed in during construction. And again, don't knock it until you've tried it. Some prior passenger opinion campaign work done. How many here remember and took part in Betty Blake's and the then DELTA QUEEN Steamboat Co. survey on what passengers wanted aboard the then new MISSISSIPPI QUEEN? We saw what came about there and then later with the AMERICAN QUEEN. Friends we know recently took an AQ cruise and have raved about it since as "the best...better than our ocean cruise...we liked the steam engines...entertainment." Others could care less what pushes the boat along with either steam or diesel. The old wags: "It only costs a little more to go first class." And, "Value paid for is value expected." Well, again what do I know?

R. Dale Flick
Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.

Bob Reynolds 05-24-2017 05:56 PM

True, true, and true. I like the AMERICAN QUEEN very much, though the stopping nearly every day thing baffles me. Certainly the luxury is appreciated by most, me included. Modern air conditioning/heating expected nowadays. We have all become accustomed to really good food, and at the prices charged, this is as it should be.

Yet (and no one has mentioned the "elephant in the room" and we're probably all comparing in our own minds the boats/cruises mentioned to the DQ), bigger is not always better, nor is newer always better. Referring back to the DELTA QUEEN, yes, those staterooms are tiny, but really how much time do you spend in them? A place to sleep, change clothes and shower are really all one needs, or all most really want. Yes, the the DQ's bathrooms are small (I know that's being kind!), but possibly the new owners have thought about addressing that situation? The DQ's quaintness, the Texas Lounge, the lounges and dining room are all quaint yet very "do-able" in terms of passenger service as well as being fine for the crew to work in without problems. The addition of an elevator to the DQ would be a good thing. There's not necessarily anything wrong with the new(er) boats/ships, but there's not necessarily anything wrong with older vessels, either. I know Sharon and I have sailed on 2 different blue water ships that were older, and we actually preferred them -- smaller and more intimate, quiet with steam propulsion, more like the older ocean liners for those like us who appreciate such things. Those ships were full or nearly so, too.

Several have wondered aloud on this board and on Facebook pages whether the new owners of the DQ can sustain a full booking situation with the boat being what she is. I must confess I have wondered the same thing myself, but I do think the DQ's charm, size, and method of operation will appeal to enough folks to make that a viable business. I hav e discussed these things and some other things with representatives of the new owners, and they hear what we oldtimners have to say about what folks want, the type of "cruising" they'd like, etc. I wish them the best and think they can find a profitable niche in this market.

Judy Patsch 05-24-2017 06:25 PM

Re:sold out???
No need for me to express my preferences. Heck the DQ was too fancy for me back in the 70s as far as the dining experience went. I didn't want to be inside, period. When I took my one and only AQ trip in 2012, I didn't go to one show or lecture, and we had two special entertainers on whose names escape me now. But I chose to sit out on deck and watch the river and scenery and enjoy the quiet. I ate off the front porch breakfast stuff and the outside dinner setup. I think I went into the dining room once, maybe twice, for lunch as we were tied up at a shore stop. And we happened to have a room whose attendant deserted ship for our trip and they somehow didn't assign anyone else to cover us until the last day, so I figure I used about 20% of my fare - but by my choice (other than the neglected room cleaning). So I have no desire to try the luxury because it is all inside luxury.
But here's my question: Dale, the AQ is sold out? Is it really, or is it like in my DQ days when TAs had rooms held for them up until 10 days prior to sailing. So the trip was announced as sold out if you tried to book it. But if you waited until 9 days, after they turned back unsold rooms, you had loads of rooms to pick from, and cruises were often only half full. Is that same policy in place today for TAs? Or are the fares really sold and guaranteed???

Bob Reynolds 05-24-2017 11:37 PM

Judy, whenI've been on the boat was sold out, as in really sold out. I spoke with someone a couple of weeks ago who said this is much so that this person did not even have a crew room to sleep in.

Judy Patsch 05-24-2017 11:54 PM

Good news
That is good news - probably some deep discounts are in there on some trips, but at least the bodies are there. I never could understand why the company would allow TAs who never sold out their allotment to keep the rooms until 10 days before, or to even give them the number of rooms they requested if their past performance didn't merit it. This shows that tastes have changed and that most of us on here have been passed by for what is important - so the DQ would be the answer for us. But there aren't enough known 'us' to fill the boat for the season, but we can hope there are new prospects out there who would appreciate cruising in daylight with non-luxury sleeping rooms, etc.

R. Dale Flick 05-25-2017 08:11 AM

*Clarify 'sold out' above*
Morning, Steamboating colleagues:
Good question, Judy, and I should have been clearer writing above. Just go on line and call up AMERICAN QUEEN to see the calendar of cruises for 2017/2018. Note a great number of them already marked SOLD OUT.

I agree about travel agencies and other big tour companies scoffing up 'banks' of cabins on boats and ships only to 'dump' them ten days prior if not sold. This was common up until a few years ago. One marvel of computers/internet is now many prospective passengers can type in and do bookings themselves on line complete with credit card payment transfers etc. Many river and ocean lines still have designated agents by geographical district or in their home offices you may contact. DELTA QUEEN used to have several district sales agents who traveled about touching bases with big agencies like AAA TRAVEL, CARTAN, individual agencies. This all now pretty much a thing of the past. Then there were/are individuals who operate small travel agencies out of their home. Internet has cut deep into travel companies with them being called, "Ten businesses you DON'T want to enter today."

This was what caused Betty Blake and DQ Co. so much anguish years ago when they invited a big contingent of top travel officials and national travel writers to cruise on the DELTA QUEEN--all free naturally from soup to nuts and lots of drinks. When the travel articles were printed the writers came down on the DELTA QUEEN calling her "Nothing more than a preserved relic--if that. Food not what expected far from the old Mark Twain tradition." On and on. I could go on and on but will mercifully stop at this point. Betty went ballistic for sure consulting with company legal counsel on how to counter the bad PR.. Then she and the company had to print disclaimers in the DQ travel brochures. She growled, "Times are I don't know who are our friends or enemies." Again, what do I know?

R. Dale Flick
Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.

Jim Blum 05-25-2017 08:51 AM

Possibly slight off the topic; however I have a question on advertizing brochures for vessels [River and Blue Water] aimed at the American consumer. The Country of Vessel Registration never [or rarely] seems to appear anywhere in the brochure. Seems to me that this information should appear.

As to the Sold Out question some brochures that have passed by my beady eyes seem to have the least expensive room catagory marked "Sold Out"----months or as long as a year in advance.

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