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Mike Washenko 03-29-2016 04:41 PM

Exemption Opposition - American Cruise Lines
Although I am a minority partner in the Delta Queen Steamboat Company (DQSC, LLC) the views expressed in this post are mine alone, and do not represent those of the management or the company.

Fellow Delta Queen supporters as you all know the current owners of the Delta Queen have been working tirelessly for the past 3+ years to get an exemption from the provisions of SOLAS that had been granted numerous times since the late 1960ís. Their efforts came close in 2014 when the House of Representatives passed the legislation but the bill died in the Senate and Iím sure some of you may wonder why the bill died or why no action has been seen on the current bills to extend the exemption. The purpose of this post is to shed some light on the situation.

One of the primary opponents of the exemption is a competing cruise company, American Cruise Lines (ACL). They are spending substantial sums of money to keep the exemption from being passed. They have retained the Washington DC lobby firm Blank Rome Government Relations since at least 2013 specifically to stop the exemption from happening. This is not speculation, but verifiable fact.

All lobby firms are required to file reports with Congress on their estimated income from clients and on what issues. According to the reports filed by Blank Rome, income from ACL was $50,000 in 2013, $40,000 in 2014 and $30,000 in 2015. The reports further show that the issue for 2013 & 14 were HR 1961, S 1022 and S 2924 (the exemption bills) and the 2 bills of the Coast Guard authorization. For 2015 the issues are HR 1248 and S 1717 (the current exemption bills) and the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 bills. So, from 2013 through 2015 ACL has spent at least $120,000 to keep the Delta Queen from overnight travel again. The 1st quarter 2016 report is not due yet but I will get it when itís filed.

You can read more on this at [url=]Connecticut companies spent millions lobbying in Washington this year | The CT Mirror[/url]

So what else can you do to help the Delta Queen besides calling your Senators and Representatives asking them to support the exemption? Itís simple: DO NOT DO ANY BUSINESS WITH ACL.

Why give them our hard earned travel dollars for use against our efforts to get the Delta Queen back in the overnight travel business she is meant to be in? Spread the word that ACL is stopping the exemption from happening. If you ĎLikeí the ACL Facebook page, ĎUnlikeí it. Post a comment on their Facebook page and other travel review websites about what they are doing to stop the exemption.

Iím sure there is much more you can do than what Iíve mentioned but itís a start, power is in us the people. Together we can get the exemption passed this year and the Queen cruising next year.

David Dewey 03-29-2016 05:08 PM

This is the information we need to pass onto ALL our friends, AND to our congressional representatives. The DQ is being bullied by a Big Money company, and usually our representatives are FOR the underdog! They also like to wave the flag, so I would suggest something stated like the following:
From 2013 through 2015 American Cruise Lines has spent at least $120,000 hiring Blank Rome Government Relationships to lobby against the exemption for the Delta Queen. They have spread misinformation about the Delta Queen and its exemplary safety record. Apparently ACL fears the competition and wants to keep the Delta Queen from returning to overnight river travel. Competition is the American Way; do not let this company with big money subvert the American Way and destroy a significant piece of our American Heritage!

Time is short, re-post all your friends, acquaintances, co-workers and your government representatives. Let them know we are fighting for the rights of the "little people" -- the ones they are elected to represent!

Jo Ann Schoen 03-30-2016 06:08 PM

Thanks Mike, for sharing that enlightening information. Some of us have known this was going on, but I, for one, did not know the extent they had gone. How awful! However, it is also obvious that our Congressmen are helping thwart FREE ENTERPRISE! What a pity! Okay, more calls to Congressmen from. I have new ammunition and I'm not afraid to use it!

Richard Reiff 04-08-2016 06:15 PM

ACL is probably not spending wisely?
Maybe ACL should have tried to block Viking instead of worrying about the DQ A vastly different set of clients. I agree with the above threads, when folks ask us about riverboats we make it clear to look for AQ and not ACL websites. Another ACL trick seems to be that their site pops up first on internet searches, even when you type in American Queen Steamboat.

What ACL (and to some extent AQ folks) need to be afraid of is not the DQ, but Viking. With all the advertising and a big following from people who have sailed European Rivers with Viking there will be some stiff competition. Too bad ACL didn't put the same effort in blocking a foreign owned company from barging into the American riverboat trade. (no pun intended....)

This year, for the first time ever, we decided to try a European riverboat trip, and went with AMA. during that trip we really gave the AQ (and AE) some good comments and advised others to avoid ACL. I was surprised at the number of Americans who had never heard of the AQ, or even knew that there were overnight steamboat or riverboat trips on US rivers. Even with all the advertising I have seen in the US I was still surprised at the number of Viking boats on the river compared to other companies. I am concerned a bit that they will try to take over the US riverboat market, we shall see. In the mean time, although we don't have our next AQ trip planned, there are several options we are looking at. We also will never consider an ACL trip, regardless of price, due to their actions.

Jo Ann Schoen 04-10-2016 10:15 AM

Thanks Richard for your timely updates. I would like to point out as well, one evening late, about a month ago my mom decided she needed information on an AQ trip, so I called one of those "online" travel companies. The gal was very nice, but asked me more than once if I wasn't sure I wanted American Cruise Line rather than American Queen. Wonder if he's paying off travel agencies as well?

Jim Reising 04-10-2016 10:43 AM

ACL is not "paying off travel agents". A google search of ACL shows that they feel travel agents are very important in bringing in new business and therefore they pay higher commissions....up to 25% of the published fare......than other cruise lines. To me, if a company can get travel agents to steer prospects their way, that's darn good business practices not something shady.
I'm not supporting ACL, but in all fairness, they have done nothing wrong hiring lobbiests, that's the way the world works today and, after all, is that not exactly what the DQSC management is doing when they go to Washington, lobbying?

David Dewey 04-11-2016 12:54 AM

Well, I hate to disagree with Jim, but paying higher commissions is, in effect, "paying them off" as they make it more profitable to send business their way.
As far as lobbying, paid lobbyists were not considered by the forefathers. The other thing that isn't right is the current situation in Congress whereby the chair of a committee can, by only his/her own actions, prevent the body from voting on an issue if that bill is in his/her committee; thus giving ONE person the ability to thwart what may be wanted by the majority.
By what logic does ACL have the right to prevent competition by abusing the electoral process? I'm not talking legal issues here as much as moral issues I guess.

R. Dale Flick 04-11-2016 09:54 AM

*Agent % commissions/Steering clients*
Morning, Steamboating colleagues:
Jim & David, interesting reading your thinking on the above subject of 'Agent commissions,' 'Steering' potential cruise clients. Both right--to a point. Concept of paying 'agent commissions' goes way, way back to the beginning of travel services by early railroad, steamboat, steamships companies. Commission on, at times, a sliding scale. Early THOMAS COOK CO. in England one big mover--and I interned a year in their shipping office in Cincinnati while completing my graduate degree. I also recall a period when 'some' of our fellow DELTA QUEEN fans were in a tizzy over the commission rates paid by the company to agents; along with sentiments that travel agents, travel executives were being given preferred treatment aboat the boat. Ture and not true as that's how this business works. Again Betty Blake, upon hearing this, just scowled over her desk biting her cigarette filter, "To h--- with them," she barked. Yes, Jim Reising right in a posting a long while back here stating, "Most people would not have liked Betty Blake." My silent retort from experience was, "And Betty Blake didn't like most people [us] in return." The former GREENE LINE STEAMERS a pioneer in travel company individual and group bookings way, way back to the GORDON C. GREENE in tandem with the big CARTAN CO. with rail, bus, air connections to the GORDON and later DQ. Passenger auto were parked on the huge GREENE LINE wharboat under cover here for a nominal fee.

The travel agency industry considered "one of America's dying occupations" now with direct phoning, Internet booking etc. Professional agents don't "steer" clients other than showing options, asking about past cruise experience, time, budget. Some large companies in travel do hold or block groups of boat/ship cabins for sale often on a discount. I seriously doubt ACL would have independent agencies 'steering' anybody. It's an easy mistake with the name AMERICAN QUEEN and AMERICAN CRUISE LINE being linguistically close in names. Whether we like it or not, that's how it works. In my time back in the late 1960s the DELTA QUEEN was NOT represented by more than a few travel companies here considering the boat a "special, nodal market" with "an uneven history." OUCH! Clients were asked politely to "phone or write the DELTA QUEEN directly." In time, with the company reorganized, Betty worked for full national and international exposure with % commission rates increased, PR programs. The company also brought aboard then 'regional representatives' to travel servicing agencies with updates, literature, information. Most regional representatives now gone due to Internet communication--except for the very tip top luxury resorts, hotels, cruise boats and ships. I remember the day here when THOMAS COOK represented nearly all passenger cruise boats/ships around the world. Big cities like New York, Chicago etc. had offices with agents representing the major Atlantic/Pacific passenger and cargo shipping lines. I handled many a day CUNARD, FRENCH LINE, ITALIAN LINE, MATSON, UNITED STATES LINES, NORD GERMAN LINE, AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINES etc. And in the blink of any eye they were gone. For that reason I returned quickly to academia and school administration. A job is a job and believe me that there's nothing romantic being a travel agent or steamship representative.

In short the DQ--then and now--no different than any other 'product line' offered. It's a tough business competing for those 'disposable income' dollars for travel experiences. If you think the baby boomers are demanding then wait until you get a dose of these younger millenials coming up behind all of us. All of this angst over food, cabins, outside decks, tight weave bed linens, slippers, robes etc. part of the new trend in travel. If people don't like what is offered [Or don't want to pay the higher tariffs] then move on to another company. Whatever service, perk or luxury item you receive just remember you're paying for it one way or another. I think we all kid ourselves thinking that when the DQ is exempted, renovated and running, her cruise rates would be a return to the old days. Those days long, long gone. Again, what do I know?

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

Bob Reynolds 04-13-2016 04:11 AM

Here are a few things in this vein: As mentioned, a lot of folks don't even realize you can cruise the rivers in the US. If they inquire of a travel agent (and if I did not know about the boats, I certainly would consult one), the agent has to know about the boats/companies operating. Certainly the payment of higher commissions would get my attention if I were a travel agent, but all the companies offering river cruises need to get their info "out there". Part of the trouble may also be that each agent's personal bias would play into things: does the agent love gourmet food? Does the agent have mobility issues? Does he or she want Vegas entertainment? Do they want to tour Nauvoo, IL all day or go on a riverboat ride and see the sights and learn about the river?

Let's face it, the stairs and the small rooms (and tiny bathrooms as Jim has mentioned) on the DQ are a drawback to a lot of people, for various reasons. Those of us who know and love the DQ will take that boat over others, but what about those who do not know anything about any of the boats? Steam and authenticity will always appeal to a few people, but not everyone. We can see what some people think of the Hotel Lafayette in Marietta -- some of us love it for various reasons, but others do not for various reasons, some of which are valid (and what turns some off may be the very thing that turns someone else on). The same applies to riverboats.

You might say that taking a steamboat cruise is a way to "live in the past" a little bit. Some want just that. But Capt. Wagner and Vic Tooker are long gone, as great as they were. The DQ is adequate for her market, but other more modern boats fill a need for those who need an elevator, need larger staterooms and baths, etc. I can see both sides of this issue. I love the DQ, though, and would choose her over the more modern boats. The word has to get out there, though, as to what she is and is not.

Jim Reising 04-13-2016 08:32 AM

Excellent response, Bob, I love the DQ as much as anybody and would give anything to ride her again. I fell in love with her the first time I rode her as a mere lad of 9 and now 62 yrs. later I still love her, she has been a great influence in my life. I know some of my postings seem awfully critical, but I do feel there is a place for her as well as the other boats that are now running. Once our beloved Queen starts running again, the traveling public will have a choice..old or new, traditional or modern....and to me that is a good thing. I don't see the other companies as enemies, I see them as an offering to those who don't care about authenticity a way to experience America's beautiful inland river system.
By the way Bob a happy belated birthday.

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