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-   -   *MOR/S&D on AMERICAN QUEEN/ACL. 'Luxury market.'* (http://www.steamboats.org/forum/river-talk-cruises/5697-mor-s-d-american-queen-acl-luxury-market.html)

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 Steamboats.org. 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 want...be 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 continuing...so 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.

R. Dale Flick 05-25-2017 03:53 PM

*Vessel registry/'SOLD OUT'*
Hello, Jim, good observation on many ship/boat brochures not indicating country of registry. Some do with that included in more detailed publications or finalization of tickets and sailing documents. Many passengers don't even think about it let alone ask. Countries of registration vary: Bahamas, Bermuda, Monrovia, Liberia, Hong Kong. Some Great Britain and also United States. This called 'flag of convenience' to avoid certain maritime regulations, laws, taxes in the owning country. With the near non-existence of American ships/boats in passenger service not many show our registry. There are also factors of labor laws, taxes on officers and crew pay.

Since the unfortunate COSTA CONCORDIA disaster many international laws tightened up. Companies finding now they can't run and hide as SOLAS [Safety At Sea Laws] and other international Coast Guard regulations find them out. Many nations have similar administrations like our Coast Guard on the high seas andtheir big lakes and inland rivers. One leading mega cruise company even lobbied to have American harbor pilots not requried here to save money but lost hands down. Our own Federal IRS also tried to levy IRS pay deductions on base salaries and tips but it was beaten down. I'm sure you know this better than me from your experience. Remember, boats outside of our own 12 mile limit, and that of other countries, makes all the difference. Companies found deliberately polluting waters at sea with various oils and chemicals face big fines with officers and crew fired. Also now new international 'smoke regulations' even with gas turbines and diesel engines. And even beautiful old-time romantic steamboats fit the bill. Read above my comments with SOLD OUT. Again and again the tip top most expensive suites and cabins aboard sell out first from the top down. In the old days with the GREENE LINE, Letha Greene and family never pulled rank taking a top cabin away from a full paying passenger when they were aboard. They took what was left over and unsold. Well, what do I know?

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

Russ Ryle 05-25-2017 04:53 PM

What people look for in a steamboating experience
 
The marketing of cruising has changed as much as the reasons folks want to cruise over the years. Us old timers who look at riding the river from the prospective of the good old days will continue to be a declining customer base to support current and future riverboat operations.

The challenge is to build and operate boats for today's market.

Best regards,

Russ Ryle

Judy Patsch 05-25-2017 05:06 PM

Flag of convenience experience
 
My one and only blue water cruise was on the BERMUDA STAR out of NOLA in 1988. She was registered in Panama, one of the most popular flags in NOLA. I read the fire drill directions on the placard in my room. I was to report to station 13 on the starboard side. So, when the bells rang I dutifully went to the starboard side to find 13. This was impossible, as 13 was over on the PORT side. I was very alert the whole trip after that. As to pollution, I would stand on the little overhang near the stern after midnight and watch the crew pitch the white plastic garbage bags out of a midship doorway...this happened nightly, not just a rare occurrence. The Captain was German, the First Mate Norwegian, and the steward's staff Panamanian, with very few speaking understandable English. I have no idea what nationality was in the dining room as I never went in there once, had hot dogs on deck mostly. There were no announcements regarding any navigational items or of much of anything. It was the first and only cruise I could hardly wait to have end, and killed any desire to try another blue water cruise. In fact, the next weekend I took a 3 day trip on the MQ, something I swore I'd never pay to ride, but it was like heaven now!!!! (To further explain the flag of convenience, a ship probably has never been in that country. The owner pays a registration fee to that country and that's that, similar to US businesses registering in Delaware for favorable tax/financial breaks.)

Bob Reynolds 05-25-2017 09:03 PM

The BERMUDA STAR was renamed ENCHANTED ISLE when operated by Commodore Cruise Lines, I believe out of NOLA. It was originally the ARGENTINA, then VEENDAM, and if I'm not mistaken, Dale cruised on her as the VEENDAM. We were on the ENCHANTED SEAS operated by Commodore out of NOLA for two trips. The ENCHANTED SEAS was the ex-BRASIL and VOLENDAM. The ship had an international crew -- many Americans in the pursers office and as cruise directors, the doctor was American. The Captain one trip was German, the other trip Norwegian. Dining room and bar staff were from several different countries, but everyone spoke fluent English. While I did not witness any pollution incidents, there could have been some; I wasn't looking for it. The Fire and Boat drills were professionally handled. We could not really "connect" with the Norwegian Captain, but Capt. Gunter Gummert (German) was gracious to us, spent quite a bit of time talking to me, had us at his table (along with Chief Peter Falk from the NATCHEZ) for Captain's Dinner.

We also took a trip to the Bahamas in late 1979 on the SS EMERALD SEAS when owned by Eastern Steamship Lines. While okay, that experience was not the fine one we had in the 1990's on the ENCHANTED SEAS. I believe both these ships were of Bahamian registry when we were on them. I never felt unsafe on on either of them.

Jim Reising 05-29-2017 12:32 PM

Look what's missing in this photo
 
1 Attachment(s)
Talk about change, look at these folks on the GORDON C. GREENE in the late 40's, think people today would be like them, reading a book, looking at the river, and enjoying good conversation? Heck NO! Most of the people today would have their faces buried in an Iphone.
People in the same office don't talk today, they email each other.
Could you or would you spend a week with no wifi? Very few people would.

Ginnie Rhynders 05-29-2017 02:14 PM

Yes.............................................

Bob Reynolds 05-29-2017 05:32 PM

Jim, I'm not so sure I agree with you on this. While working on the AQ last year, many were enjoying the scenery, reading books, etc. Some were inside playing backgammon, doing picture puzzles. Though I do think it would be a mistake to not have wi-fi, I think many still appreciate river cruising both for what it is and what it isn't. I had daily conversations with several people from both the US and abroad who were getting into the steamboat thing as we knwo it quite nicely.

Jim Reising 05-30-2017 10:30 AM

Bob, cell phones are a pet peeve of mine. I hate going to restaurant and sitting next to someone who thinks their phone conversation is more important than my relaxing dinner, or sitting in church and hearing someones phone ring. And who hasn't missed a green light because some jackass is texting on his phone? Many times it seems that "Candy Crunch" is much more important than holding a good conversation.
I might be overly sensitive on this issue.

Bob Reynolds 05-30-2017 10:39 AM

I'm with you on this, Jim. However, cell phones are here to stay and do give us a way to stay connected that we have become used to. However, I will say that I did not see much cell phone use at all on the AQ, at least among the passengers. ;-)

Jim Reising 05-30-2017 12:01 PM

Bob....that might be because they are a more sophisticated, educated crowd.

Frank X. Prudent 05-30-2017 01:54 PM

Honestly, I think that the average AQ passenger is just older!

David Dewey 05-30-2017 02:29 PM

Count me as "Very Few" as that's one thing I really liked onboard the DQ--the outside world didn't exist, except what we could see from the decks. I remember we pulled into some town and someone brought a newspaper onboard, I glanced at the front page and said, "Looks like the world's still out there!" and didn't bother reading anything in it--oddly, not even the funnies, which I usually read first!

R. Dale Flick 05-30-2017 04:24 PM

*What happened to this thread/messages?*
Steamboating colleagues:
Apparently something happenened above with posted messages on this thread--again. I looked today but saw all of the previous above messages have disappeared. There is mention that Frank Prudent and David Dewey posted but...POOF!...Zilch...Nothing. Must be a technical thing. Cheers!

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

Bob Reynolds 05-30-2017 10:06 PM

Dale, this does happen from time to time on here. Switch to "linear mode" and you can see everything, though the display is a little bit different.

Carmen 05-31-2017 02:55 AM

Dale,

This happens time by time but we donīt know whatīs the reason. When you are logged in you can see all posts. They are still here but you canīt see them when youīre not logged in.

Carmen


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