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How Would You Do It ??????? (2)

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  • Judy Patsch
    Prospective passengers

    As I'm sure you know Tom, back in the 1970s and 80s when I was a DQ passenger, the shore stops were times when the locals were allowed to tour the boat, usually for a quarter or dollar contribution to the "Captain's Fund". We'd have them lined up the length of the boat in places like Prairie du Chien, Dubuque, Davenport. I would go into town and get back in time for the 'open house' so I could talk to the people and show them my room. I can't tell you how many trips I might have personally inspired, but I know that many were booked after people got onboard to tour.( My first time aboard was at a Muscatine shore stop in 1968 and my first trip was in 1973.) Then sometime after my day it was determined by 'the company' that having these townfolk aboard infringed upon the privacy of the passengers and so they stopped the practice, and made it even more restrictive as the years went on, finally using Homeland Security as their cover for allowing next to no one on board. Unfortunately now those passengers whose privacy was so well protected now have no steamboat on which to ensconce themselves in that privacy!
    Another great opportunity for a selling job was the locks - we often put over brochures to the lockmen to hand out. I tossed souvenir doubloons to the people, other passengers tossed candy, matchbooks, soap, whatever was throwable (crew used to do that also, until banned for fear of injuring someone with a tossed item). And of course, the calliope was played for the people, and it was also often played as we passed small towns. The whistle salutes were plentiful too. Unfortunately these things were lessened, once again due to inconveniencing the passengers or assaulting their precious eardrums too now unless you're in New Orleans or Louisville, you don't have to be assaulted by the obnoxious sounds of a calliope or steamboat whistle...
    As to Pete's comments, I've said many times in the past that less is better for me on a steamboat, but that doesn't go in today's world I guess...

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  • Pete Sisak
    I'll throw in my 2 cents, whether appreciated or not!

    Some of the small east coast cruise lines...(ACCL & ACL) that Grandpa Zahn & I experienced in the early 1980's (i don't know about today???) are two that followed the "no frills" movement...cabin attendants doubled as waiter/waitress in the dining room, deck crew doubled as porters...and much of the labor at that time depended on college students during the summer months. (as Jim stated above)

    Food was simple & good, usually just one or maybe 2 menu choices served family style (a big negative for me, this where a buffet would be better for me instead) no bar, just bar mixers/soda with a BYOB policy, and a cheese roll and snacks placed out in the afternoon and no entertainment.

    Shore stops were simple, much along the lines as compared to the likes of the Delta Queen at that time...given the similarity in pricing, even @ that time...I know neither Grandpa Zahn nor I were impressed with ACL(nor were some family friends of ours who were on that ACL trip with GpZahn & me, and who also travelled the DQ & AQ several times) as we laughed how were were the 4 youngest people aboard...and Grandpa at that time was in his early 80's!


    Downside, in my opinion...BYOB booze on board, BYOB is sort of a cluster for a passenger when travelling, especially by air and to me that's like stopping @ Piggly Wiggly on your way to McDonald's with some hamburger & buns and having them cook up your stuff! I usually drink differently depending on what I eat that day, or even my mood...and 3-4-5 days & spending that much and no choice in libation...boring! But that's me...from a business standpoint, it's an excellent idea, less manpower & less hassle dealing with "dry counties" & alike...still not an advantage to me though.
    As for entertainment...that too is subjective to one's a younger man on the DQ with my trips I would attend maybe one or two shows, unless it was a themed cruise (Dixieland music for example) DQSC did nearly 20 years ago having Pete Fountain, Dukes of Dixieland and alike for an evening of which my folks & did 3 years in a row...

    Of the two I mentioned...I prefer ACCL, they are usually cheaper in fares and they to more destinations where others don't...

    The point being now is that these two "competing" small ship companies are doing OK...keeping it simple....albeit with modern "facilities & equipment" with one charging a greater premium over the other...who knows...maybe that's something a potential boat operator needs to look into...think small, rather than big!

    I don't I last cruised nearly 5 years ago, having been long priced out of the US market, but the end cruise experience was far different that how it started for me over 30 years ago, and that was not a good thing!

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  • Tom Schiffer
    How about puttin' the small office staff right on the boat? Like Alan sez, cycle them thru the boat staff. That way they will get to KNOW the problems of actually running the boat and in the case of crew...running the front office. It is interesting for me to note that I cannot detect one front-office person posting on this board. I din't say there were none, just that they keep a low profile if they are here! As a book author, I know that promotion is not important, it is EVERYTHING. When you consider that most prospective pax hardly ever even SEE a steamboat, you begin to see the magnitude of the job. If recent past operations are any indication there was a concerted effort to keep them off the boat. (anybody on this board besides me been denied entry?) I know, that shore folks get in the way of "turning the boat around", but, what better way than to expose them to satisfied folks who are just coming off a cruise? The crew won't like it, but I note they don't like not having a job either. Like sandbars, drift, high and low water and fog, prospective passengers must be dealt with somewhere, somehow...what more effective place than on the boat itself? What about having the Captain's Dinner (gasp!) uptown? Pre advertised that it is open to all (Dutch treat) and have the crew there in full uniform?? I might add that one of Betty Blake's very real assets (that I never see mentioned) was the fact that she was not at all hard to look at and was very visible EVERYWHERE. As far as paddle wheels are concerned, I like 'em, but I note that my two little steamers attract plenty of attention and neither one has a paddle wheel...but they ARE steam-powered and I'm not afraid to use the whistle! Visibility is one thing, but liking what they see is quite another! Now, this is just one guy's opinion. Cap'n Walnut.

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  • Jim Reising
    On the two Uniworld boats I was on in Europe. each boat held 132 passengers and had a crew of just 27. Two of the "maids" had dishwashing duty each night while the other "maids" served dinner. The "maids" rotated the dishwashing duties each night. Contrast that to the RIVER BARGE which held about 200 passengers but had a crew of 60.
    Alan, why do you think 250 passengers is the optimum number? Uhm, that would equate to 125 rooms, spread over 3 decks which would mean 41 rooms per deck. Or 20 rooms on each side.....10 feet per room, could easily fit on a 250/300 ft long boat.
    Let's say the boat is 300 feet long and 50 feet wide, how many horsepower would it take to move it along at 12 mph?

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  • Alan Bates
    I would try to form some sort of river consortium interested in owning and WORKING a passenger boat. Each investor would be obliged to work on the boat a minimum number of trips, but at least one must be aboard at all times.

    The boat should be diesel powered with pilothouse control. It should be of modest size, say 200' to 300' feet long and have a capacity of 250 passengers. Feeding would be buffets at all meals. It absolutely must be immaculately clean, and easy to keep that way.

    Every employee must "double in brass" (pilots masters and mates must be prepared to function in all three jobs), hotel crew must do serving, janitor, and room servicing; and the deck crew must also help with clean-up. The fewer employees, the better. Anyone not flexible enough in mind or body should seek employment elsewhere. All employees should be encouraged to invest in the business. Happy extroverts only would be wanted.

    Every possible advertising and publicity method must be employed.

    The office staff must be small and able to work at each others' jobs. (Remember how Judy Roberts was the entire Belle of Louisville office staff for all those years!)

    Now all we need is eight investors with an average of $2,000,000.00 or more to spend.

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  • David Dewey
    No Paddlewheel? Or it's not really propelling the boat?
    I'm not there! It's also one of the things I didn't like about the AQ either (besides being way too big)
    Truth be told, I don't like all the noise from the dismal generators aboard the DQ either--but I put up with them (There's got to be a quieter way of generating electricity--hint hint, steam is quiet!).
    I prefer the gentle quiver of the boat pushed by the wheel.
    But then, I'm not the main target passenger either--but I do think that if you are marketing a riverboat trip in the Miss' and associated rivers, folks will expect a paddle wheel--and twin stacks (though I don't insist on that, but then I'm from Californy, where single stacks were the usual).
    Hmm, while I'm posting my preferences, I want a wheel powered with pitmans, not chains--although there are some famous boat that used chain drive.
    David D.

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  • Paul Penta
    Hi Jim,

    I think on the Mississippi/Ohio/Tennessee system, the idea is to sell history. A paddlewheel boat sets the tone for the entire experience. The food, the lectures, most of the entertainment and the whole ambience is geared to that particular niche. The paddlewheel need not be the means of propulsion, as on the Empress of the North, but it and the boat attached to it, are vital to the product. The European rivers, I think, are not in that universe. Now, ACL runs more modern boats, but their itineraries don't necessarily revolve around the same concept.

    Although, as an aside, I often thought that one of the boats running on the Hudson from NYC to Vermont would be a cool run. And I think Bruno would agree. I'd even bet he'd be willing to work on a boat that runs in his backyard.

    Just my 2 cents.


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  • Jim Reising
    started a topic How Would You Do It ??????? (2)

    How Would You Do It ??????? (2)

    Thought it would be best to start a new thread on this. There were many interesting and valid points brought out in the last discussion, some of which might merit further elaboration.
    Kenny Howe and I were talking about this today and we were wondering a couple of things......
    1. Why a paddlewheel? We both believe that in todays world a paddlewheel is not much of a passenger draw. We both agreed that on the TWILIGHT trip a couple of summers ago, no one seemed to notice that the boat didn't have a paddlewheel. If a paddlewheel was such a good means of propulsion, why aren't the used anymore? From my own experience riding riverboats in Europe, the Azipodes they use seemed pretty darned good; no vibration, good speed, extreme manuverbility, and with electric drive the engines can be placed anywhere in the hull and the same power that is generated for the propulsion can be used to operate the hotel plant.
    2. Why two boats? Seems to us that it would be a lot easier to fill one boat. Also anyone who has been around boats knows that if one breaks down so will the the same time.
    3. How big a boat? 50, 100, 150, 200, 300 or 400 passengers? There must a be point that is the most economical although I don't what the formula is. It would seem that the same engines that would move a boat that holds a 100 could also move a boat that holds 200.
    4. In your calculations one theing no one mentioned is insurance. Marine insurance is quite expensive. The rates depend on the number of passengers and crew. A 200 passenger boat could easily run $350 - $400,000 a year just to insure.
    That was just a few of our thoughts on the subject. We both feel that some day soon there will be a whole fleet of boats on the river. There has to be, the river is just too beautiful.