“Labor of Love”: Interview with Jeff Krida, Great American Steamboat Company
The American Queen is back on the rivers making the headlines of newspapers not only all along the Mississippi River but even in the New York Times and the USAtoday. A few weeks ago we had the chance to get some questions answered by the cruise line’s CEO, Jeffrey Krida, about the American Queen and the future plans of the Great American Steamboat Company.
steamboats.org: Steamboat enthusiasts are excited about the American Queen returning to the rivers, but they alone won’t fill the boat year-round. What’s the intended audience for the American Queen?
Jeff Krida: The intended audience is quite wide and varied. As you well know, the steamboats had a loyal and devoted following in the past, but we will appeal to a much wider consumer base given the explosive growth in river cruising worldwide. We are targeting mature travelers who are looking for unique travel experiences closer to home, who love history, nostalgia and wish to not only learn, but experience the heartland of America with its warm and friendly people, great food, amazing scenery and come home feeling enriched on so many different levels.
Several previous owners of the American Queen ran into trouble with this business – what’s will Great American Steamboat Company do differently to become a success story?
We have the good fortune of being able to identify where the mis-steps were made in the past and not repeat them. We also have the good fortune to have much of the talent that made Delta Queen so great and in fact, fabled the world over during the 80’s and early 90’s. As you are aware, Jeff Krida presided over the company during that time when the DQ boats were at the top of every major travel publications’ “list of lists” for food, service and entertainment. We also have a very talented team of newcomers who hail from the luxury ocean-cruise lines. They understand great food and service while sharing the passion for how unique the steamboat experience is. We are providing stellar dining, exemplary service and have also upgraded the hotel plant of the boat substantially. Unlike some of the past operators, this isn’t a financial instrument or transaction, it’s a labor of love.
Not only Great American Steamboat Company is starting operations this year with the American Queen, but also a competitor is even building new ships for this market. What has changed to the positive on the US inland rivers cruise market over the last couple of years?
It’s actually quite simple, these boats didn’t disappear because there was no market, there was just no market for marginal, mediocre products at sky high prices. River cruising is booming around the globe and there was never a lack of interest or consumers to fill these boats. But as with any market, if it is neglected or consumers feel taken advantage of, they will go elsewhere.
So thankfully, the absence of the DQ boats proved that there was demand as many consumers and agents bemoaned their passing. Not only does the resurrection of the AQ showcase that, but our esteemed and collegial competitor also sees that there is a market. This is a great thing to have the possibility of three and maybe even greater number of boats running on the heartland rivers of the USA.
What are your expectations for the following years? Is an additional ship, maybe even a new-build an option for Great American Steamboat Company?
As anyone in this business knows, no one goes forward with just a one boat operation. Our focus is of course on the introduction of the AQ and the perfection of the experience. But there is plenty of room on these mighty rivers for more boats and if the right opportunity presents itself, we will act on it. We are very much an ambitious, growth-oriented team and company.
Thanks very much, Jeff Krida, for this interview.
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