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    ACL expansion

    American Cruise Lines appears to be poised to get another boat for West Coast operations. Speculation in this article centers on either the CQ or the EON. Personally, I think the Empress is a better choice, but I'm prejudiced.

    American Cruise Lines to Double Fleet - gCaptain Forum

    Paul

    #2
    Paul,

    Interesting information...I had heard some chatter about them looking at another boat for over there. I also have heard chatter of them putting a boat on the Mississippi. They spoke with some of the DQSCo. Port Captains last summer about what they would have to do to get the QOTW over here, and scuttled it when they realized the cost. About 2 weeks ago they had another meeting which mentioned "other boats" as a possible Mississippi River ship (I hate the "ship" word when used to describe a boat...just shows the ignorance of the operator) in 2012. From what I was told, if they do it, we will be surprized what boat they run. My source for this info is one of the Captains mentioned earlier. He said he had no interest in going to work for them if this happens.

    So now we sit, wonder, and wait!

    I never saw the EMPRESS...but I have heard so many good things about her, I can't imagine they wouldn't want her.

    Travis

    Comment


      #3
      EoN

      Well, if they are considering the EMPRESS for Mississippi use, they'd better remember she has a 12 foot draft and wouldn't work above Cairo very well. It would seem logical to buy the AQ for Mississippi use rather than to move one from the west coast.

      Comment


        #4
        Judy,

        What I heard did not have the EON coming over on the inland. You are right...she'd be aground before she got to Bayou Sara! I wouldn't be surprized if the CQ came over here, if infact they are adamant on relocating a boat. Of course, they could build a new boat (ala the NEW ORLEANS of 1985) cheaper than all of the above, I should think.

        Travis

        Comment


          #5
          I would think they would be very hesitant with going with American flagged vessels again, especially with the current political situation. NCL is still wiping the egg off their face as the post says about their two failed vessels, my cousin was a enviro officer on the pride of aloha when it first launched, he had been with NCL for about 8 years before that and said that the American registered vessels had the largest crew and hospitality turn over compared to any ship or line he has ever worked on. Said by the time they finished training them they were ready to take off because the pay was too "low" for an American to want to stay on the job.

          of course with that said it's an entire different world with the small cruise vessels, and I can't say I know much about it, and we really don't go into it at the college.

          Comment


            #6
            Mat,

            The smaller "boats" on the Inland Rivers were Union at one time. The pay was good, the living conditions good, and the overall satisfaction on the job good. Yes, there were some who didn't fit into vessel life. But, for the most part, we had a happy group of people providing excellent customer service to our guests and making good money doing it.

            NCL is a Cruise ship Line...they are used to having foreigners working for them from 3rd world nations who will work at a slaves labor pace to make what little money they are given. They are so desperate for money they will virtually do anything for it. Hence, they are happy with the cruise line. They get 3 meals, a cot, and money.

            The sad reality is this comparison is EXACTLY what the Bruce Neirenburg's of the world used to kill the steamboats. It is not true!

            The steamboats were American flagged vessels with American crews. This is where the comparison ends. They were not, nor could they ever be cruise ships...they are steamboats. They operate in entirely different surroundings, with many situations a cruise ship could never and would never encounter. When was the last time you heard of a Cruise Ship being late to Decatur, Al because of a double lockage at Wheeler lock? Has a Cruise ship ever landed at a sandbar so the passengers could get up close and personal with such a thing? Would a cruise ship encounter a lost portion of a trip because the river came up....yet the crew of the boat made all the passengers happy and did what ever they could with in their power to make the situation better and get the maximum they could for their dollar? The answer to all of these is no.

            The truth is the steamboats were river rides...they weren't cruises. The last two operators wanted them to be cruise ships and didn't know what to do with them when they weren't conforming to the NCL way. Majestic America Line instituted the "Freestyle cruising" ideal from NCL...it was nothing short of a car wreck! They couldn't afford to throw lavish full-service meals AND buffet meals at the same time. There was not the space to accomodate such thing. We had this happen on the AQ once and the passengers were eating their "Freestyle"buffet dinner in the Grand Saloon the same time the show was to start! Some passengers put their plates on the edge of the band stand when they were done, as if the Entertainers were going to pick them up and tidy up for them while doing their show!

            As soon as an operator gets it in their head what a river cruise is....they will make a fortune! It is an adventure, and experience, travel at a much different pace, a recreation of history, blazing new trails...all the while with a small group of people who are experiencing this together. The ports aren't the draw to the river...the boat and the river itself are. No one is going on the DELTA QUEEN for the rock climbing wall, outdoor pool parties, dancing by the stars on a 60' TV set, walking down the Central park Avenue with 4,500 other passengers they will never know....no, they are going on her to see American the way America was seen by our forfathers....they are going on her to experience the river.

            NCL learned a valuable lesson with NCL America....you can't have a pax to crew ratio of 3:1 and expect to pay them slave wages. Much less do it with the SIU and AMO as the representatives of your crew.

            Which brings up a rather interesting point....wonder how Daniel Inouy feels now that Hawaii has lost over 3,000 union jobs? You'd think that Jim Oberstar would be alot more worried about them than the 600 jobs lost to Majestic America Line. Ah, how personal vendettas have ruined good things while the "Good Ol' Boys Club" reigns supreme in this country!

            Sorry for the rant...it is a VERY personal thing to me...it was my career lost to those imbecils. I had a good paying job with a future, I had a retirement plan, I had health insurance, and I had stability. Thanks Jim Oberstar, your selflessness to protect Americans has paid off...now they are safe, unemployed, and have no future!

            Travis

            Comment


              #7
              I suppose you don't question my passion for steamboats ;-) So I dare to write what I'm writing now ...

              To some extend I totally agree with Travis; you can't compare boats with ships, cruise ships with river-/steamboats. but there is a big "but": Customers still compare them, no matter what you do. That's the issue travel agents have to face and that's the issue cruise lines (or how ever you want to call a overnight-passenger steamboat operater want to call) have to face. We've never been successful in even explaining the difference between a "ship" and a "boat", even to travel agents. Ho do you want to make clear even more difficult to understand differences to the audience without spending millions of dollars for marketing?

              I'm not questioning that there is a market for one or maybe two Delta Queen sized boats in the US. But this market is very small because profitably running such a venture works only with relatively high rates. Just in short, as this is another topic: high rate are inavoidable because of additional risks (delays, historic vessel, not much to do if your one and only vessel breaks down etc.)

              And now you've got two problems: The travel market IS comparing your steamboat with Royal Caribbean cruise ships (and I tell you, the Oasis is one hell of a great ship!) AND your rates are double or even higher than on these ships that offer so much more (seen from the perspective of the uneducated travel agent and his clients).

              There are successful small-ship operators around, but they're all in the upper premium sector, and that's for a good reason. But they're cruise ship companies, literally offering the same product as Royal Caribbean less water slides and basketball fields which are not suitable for the age of their customers anyway, but they go to the same destinations or actually much more fancy destinations where the big ships can't go. But these small ships can directly be compared to the big cruise ships and it's easy for their marketing to point out the positive differences as they're obvious.

              Try to point out the positive differences of a steamboat on a river to an uneducated traveller who insists to compare to a NCL cruise ship ... Let's see: You'll see Wheeling and New Madrid instead of Grand Cayman and Hong Kong. You'll have the choice of three different entrees for dinner instead of 24 different restaurants. You'll probably not catch your flight back home because you might end up in the middle of nowhere instead of let's say Nashville because of the river conditions.

              Again, these are all positive things for US who know and love the steamboats. But it turns away uneducated (and not interested in details) travellers out there, especially when you're asking for 1.500 US$ for a 7-night cruise instead of 350 US$ for a 6-nights Carnival cruise to the Bahamas.

              And a river cruise company NEEDS these passengers, too, as the river-passionate passengers are not enough to fill even one boat year-round! Especially if we don't get US$ 80 per night rates ...

              The solution? I don't know. Maybe we need to push away out attitude to some extend and accept higher rates; accept that they're calling our boats "ships" without questioning their competence just because they're using the "wrong wording" in our view; accept that they don't want to take a huge risk just to please river romance and the good old times. I don't mean to be sarcastic at all, to make that clear! I'm dead-serious - times have changed and the cruise industry is a tough business with a lot of generic rules and things we can't change no matter how much we think steamboats are different. At the end, investors have to risk their money and they want to make money with a concept they trust in. And this kind of concept usually is not a low-rate, river-romance concept, unfortunately ...

              I'm not happy with this situation at all, in case someone doubts. We've been on the Oasis of the Seas and it's a wonderful ship. But we still want the Queen's back and will always prefer them over the big cruise ships. The big cruise ships make for a great vacation you might remember for a while, but the steamboats always make a memory for life-time. It's just so hard to carry this difference to the market. And maybe the market doesn't even want real life-time experiences at all anyway - might disturb their easy-living attitude of not letting their experiences become too intense ...

              Franz

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by Travis Vasconcelos View Post
                The smaller "boats" on the Inland Rivers were Union at one time. The pay was good, the living conditions good, and the overall satisfaction on the job good. Yes, there were some who didn't fit into vessel life. But, for the most part, we had a happy group of people providing excellent customer service to our guests and making good money doing it.
                Trav,

                I only quoted your union related remarks as a jumping off point. It's a point, or rather a flashpoint, in any discussion about the economy in recent years.

                Unions got a bad name, usually fostered by disgruntled union members themselves who felt oppressed by the requirement to be members. Some of that dissatisfaction was warranted by the actions of, let's face it, greedy union officials. The corporate climate dominating our economy for the last generation or so provided a perfect petrie dish for the development of an anti-union culture.

                It's not that the corporate "suits" are evil people, they just have a philosophy that favors blind allegiance to high profitability now. (e.g. "How much are we paying that horn section? Get rid of them. We'll use a trio. The pax will never notice.")

                I prefer the longer view that a quality product, while initially more expensive, will result in smaller profit increments, but larger and longer lasting total financial return. Both philosophies have their land mines, but in my humble opinion, the latter provides a better overall product, not to mention a stable and happy work force.

                Where and when did it go into the dumper? There was a time when the Delta Queen Steamboat Company made money. What happened? Was it all the "economy"? Was it greed? Or was it a Perfect Storm made up of both factors with a few more thrown in for good measure?

                Those are rhetorical questions and I would ask that no one try to answer them specifically, in this thread anyway. The discussion will just degenerate into name calling. Sorry, I've seen it happen too many times here.

                What I do ask, though, is that the positive aspects of the company's past be identified to define a success model for those who might eventually fire up the boilers. There's a whole lot of expertise here, regardless of the differences in opinion that can cause contentious division.

                I'll start.

                If anyone wants to come in and run both Columbia River and Mississippi River ops, they must recognize the cultural differences in the two venues. A homogenized, "all things to all rivers" approach will save money in the short run. But why would a prospective passenger want to cruise both areas when they get the same experience on both boats? Maintain the diversity and offer more choice.

                OK, someone else now.

                If future operators of whatever emerges from this river fog are doing their due diligence, they are reading what we are saying. It might still happen, and then again, it might not. Frankly, the boats have broken my heart too many times for me to be very hopeful, but what the heck.

                In either case it is incumbent on us, pax and crew both, to maintain a positive, nurturing atmosphere around the possibility that someday we will all again get a chance to throw quarters into the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi.

                And Franz? To quote a wonderful movie made in Dyersville, Iowa (once a wonderful shore tour in Dubuque),

                "If you build it, they will come."

                Well, that's what I think, anyway.

                Paul

                Comment


                  #9
                  And Franz? To quote a wonderful movie made in Dyersville, Iowa (once a wonderful shore tour in Dubuque),

                  "If you build it, they will come."
                  Paul, I'm not questioning this at all. My question is just: HOW MANY will come and will that be enough to make one or more steamboats profitable? That's my whole point. And my personal answer to that, a result of many conversations I had with cruise industry people, river and ocean, is: There are not enough river and steamboat fans to fill the boat(s), you need additional "regular" people from the general vacationeer's market.

                  I'll the happiest man on earth if you prove I'm wrong :-)

                  Franz

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I would like to pose a simple question: If the DQ exemption had gone through, where would she be today? Did the DQ's lack of certificate cause the MQ and AQ to have to lay up too? Cap'n Walnut.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Guess the DQ's exemption doesn't have anything to do with the AQ and MQ's fate. Ambassadors did a poor job in running this company, maybe illfates from the beginning due to circumstances we don't know of. But however, the bad financial situation doesn't have anything to do with the DQ.

                      The only difference the DQ exemption may have made is that an investor might have been attracted by the full package of all three Queens, may have completed the renovation of the MQ, probably lay up the AQ for a while when the new MQ came out, running only two boats at a time. Something like this. but still, the economic issues won't have disappeared, with or without the DQ exemption, unfortunately.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I agree, but that only begs the question: OK, now the DQ gets her exemption...what then? If the owners (or potential buyers) thought that there was that much business out there, wouldn't they have at least run the AQ...a viable steamboat arguably in the river tradition...in 2009? They learned me in Business School at the University, that the green eye shade and sleeve garter boys and girls know that any revenue that satisfies the running costs and makes ANY Contribution at all toward the fixed costs (debt retirement, insurance, etc) is a run situation. Are we reading in the tea leaves evidence that there was no chance of even that? Cap'n Walnut

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Tom Schiffer View Post
                          Are we reading in the tea leaves evidence that there was no chance of even that?
                          That's definitely not what I meant! I think there is a very good chance for river and steamboat cruising on US Inland Rivers, and on the Columbia River this seams to work in some way again now already.

                          What I meant is: It probably will not work the way we steamboat buffs would love to see it, i.e. 80$-per-night rates with a banjo player as the highlight of entertainment (no offense, Paul! for me personally banjo music IS the highlight of a steamboat cruise) and New Madrid as the major port of call on a cruise.

                          A bitter pill for all of us to swallow, probably. But I guess we should be aware that if an investor starts out with the DQ and the AQ (which makes sense to have at least two horses in the race) it most likely won't be the way we'd like to see it - and it won't be bad per se at all, just because it's not the familiar old-time DQSC style.

                          Franz

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Two More Cents

                            One thing a new operator can copy from the bluewater folks is maintaining a block of out and back 7-day trips from a fixed port augmented by repositioning cruises to the next out and back port. Take a page from the Greene's regular season of Kentucky Lake cruises. I was always frustrated by trying to match the various DQSB schedules to my calendar. And then trying to figure out how to book airfare into one port and out of another. Etc. I recall that DN had some success with a variation on this model when they based AQ in NOLA for a season.

                            Wesley

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Franz Neumeier View Post
                              What I meant is: It probably will not work the way we steamboat buffs would love to see it, i.e. 80$-per-night rates with a banjo player as the highlight of entertainment (no offense, Paul! for me personally banjo music IS the highlight of a steamboat cruise) and New Madrid as the major port of call on a cruise.

                              A bitter pill for all of us to swallow, probably. But I guess we should be aware that if an investor starts out with the DQ and the AQ (which makes sense to have at least two horses in the race) it most likely won't be the way we'd like to see it - and it won't be bad per se at all, just because it's not the familiar old-time DQSC style.

                              Franz
                              That's ok, Franz. :O) My banjos and I appreciate you too.

                              Paul

                              Comment

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