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Interesting announcement from ACL

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    In answer to Wesley Paulson's question, a boat of any height can get as far up the Illinois Waterway to Lemont, above Lockport, La. The controlling bridge height in the Chicago area is 19.1 feet.


      Frank, I sent you an email that was returned. Please email me at


        If it is steam powered, I'll probably ride it. If it isn't, forget it. Although I did enjoy riding the Spirit of Peoria last summer and my wife and her sister are going aboard it again on Saturday for the trip to St. Louis. The SoP has great lines, a functional paddlewheel and a great crew.

        Looking at the drawing of this new boat, it reminds me of an expanded tow boat with a stern wheel. No sheer or classic lines. They need to get Alan Bates as a consultant if not the actual architect.

        -Jim Herron


          You're so right, Jim. Its another floating box. A modern boat CAN be designed that looks like an old timer and still has the modern amenities. For example, the Natchez and also the Gen. Jackson. Even I can come up with a better looking boat than that and I'm no marine architect.
          Attached Files


            I've been holding off, waiting to hear others' thoughts, because I have definite thoughts about this design as presented.
            1) Individual balconies. One of the charms and attractions for me, is the open decks and ability to walk around, AND have others walk by, so we can visit. A steamboat cruise is a relaxed (unless, like me, you're running from getting sunset on the bow photos to getting to the calliope to hear/record and film that too) time to do that old fashioned habit of conversing!
            2) No sheer, she looks like a bunch of square boxes! All those odd angles are part of the charm of an old time steamboat.
            3) The wheel. While the dip is right, the axle mount is all wrong for putting thrust to the hull. If it's built the way that drawing is, it's only for looks.
            4) STEAM!! I've yet to see/feel/hear an "infernal combustion" power supply as quiet and calming as steam--and without it, where's the "slightly trembles" the DQ has that is so comforting to frazzled nerves?
            Steamboatin' has its niche, and the folks that fit that niche like the cozy cabins! Dare I say that's part of the charm of the trip?? Cabin 338, I luvs you!
            Of course, this is all IMHO, and What do I know? (yeah, I stole that line!)
            David D.


              Dear friends,

              I don't want to hurt the feelings of anyone, but, please, wake up! ACL is not a steamboat nostalgia company but a cruise ship company. They're not building a boat for steamboat buffs, because being profitable is much easier to achieve with their clientele willing and able to pay much higher rates for the small cruise ship experience. I'm very sure though that the rates won't be as high as with their coastal ships as the rates for the Queen of the West are also lower compared to the coastal ships (though by far not low enough for everyone to afford).

              Let's face it: There are much more potential customers out there who don't care too much about sheer and steam but have $3.000 available to spend than there are steamboat fans. When a company has the choice between two options 1) big audience with a lot of money vs. 2) small, price-sensitive audience -- why should this company choose option 2? As a share holder I'd grill them on the next meeting for such a decision.

              Let's also face another fact: The cruise ship hardware and crew to some extend causes the same fix cost for the company, what ever concept of cruising they have. What makes the difference are the amenities. Amenity X costs 100 dollars to offer per day, but you can take 200 dollars from your customers for using it. That's where the profit for a cruise company comes from. Passengers sitting on the sun deck watching the landscape pass by don't spend money. And even if some passeigers are not using the amenities heavily, they're still (miraculously) willling to pay a higher rate for their cruise, just because these amenities are there.

              I've been around for quite a while now in the cruise industry since I'm writing about cruise ships for some major German nwspapers as well as on my own cruise blog (in German) and have talked to many executives from Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, MSC etc. over the last couple of months. Believe me: cruise ship companies are not taking much chances. It's not that the CEO sits down, makes a drawing and decides from his desk how a new-built cruise ship should look like. They know exactly what they're doing when launching a new ship because they're researching their existing audience; they're watching very closely which amenities on their existing ships are working well and where they can approve these; they're sometimes even testing new ideas on existing ships before they build it into new ships etc. Their concern is less the sheer and the good look of a ship but fuel efficiency technologies, air conditioning saving strategies, technologies to reduce the water resistane of the hull to save some fuel to save operational costs etc. Just look at the new Norwegian Epic: Is she beautiful? not at all, she's bluntly ugly. Is she successful? You can bet!

              As long as the cruise industry is growing as rapidly as it is doing right now, there is no need to take chances trying out new audiences (and steamboat fans would be a new audience for ACL). They're relying on their established audience and do what pleases this existing audience most. And that's also because marketing costs are much lower to convince existing passengers to try the new boat than investing in marketing and sales channels to access a totally new group of customers. So let's not blame ACL for making a (economically) smart decision.

              But anyway, I think we can still hope that the Delta Queen (or any other steamboat) returns to the river cruise market. I think the new boat will even improve the chance of having a true steamboat back on the rivers in the wake of this new boat. It'll draw the attention back to the US Inland Rivers; it'll address cruise passengers around the world and remind them of how wonderful a Mississippi River cruise is. Some of them will want to have the steam experience - and there is the chance for filling this niche with a steamboat. But this increased attention will only come through the marketing and even the pure existance of the new ACL boat on the Mississippi.

              By the way: What I've heard the paddlewheel will be the main propulsion of the new boat and additional diesel engine propulsion will be available when needed in certain river conditions.


              P.S.: Just in case you're in doubt: No, I'm not giving up the idea of steamboating. Not at all. I still love it more than anything else besides my wife and daughter. But I'm also trying to be realistic; and, yes, I also want to be fair to ACL.


                Your take

                Unfortunately Franz, I have to agree with your rationale. But there is one line with which I take great exception: "Passengers who sit on the sundeck watching the landscape pass don't spend money." I have bar bills and gift shop bills from my 41 trips that far exceed the bills of most any passenger from my day, and I sat on the Sun Deck watching the landscape go by from after breakfast until going to bed, the one exception being going into the Texas Bar for the 5 PM singalong/show. My bar bill included buying rounds for the band, and all the tipped crew got well more from me than the suggested rate. No, I didn't buy shore tours, but that is the only area in which the boat company did not profit from me. So while I realize your statement was a generalization, it surely hit me hard, knowing how much I've spent over the years, and willingly! As soon as I read the description of this new boat, I knew I'd be experiencing it from the locks and docks rather than from the decks because it is obviously going to be out of my price range - and as you know, I'm not one for the 'amenities' anyway. So be it. Hopefully you and ACL are right that there is a big market willing to spend $3000 or more for this experience, as MAL was figuring too. It will be nice to see an overnight sternwheeler on the UMR again.


                  Originally posted by Judy Patsch View Post
                  "Passengers who sit on the sundeck watching the landscape pass don't spend money." I have bar bills and gift shop bills from my 41 trips that far exceed the bills of most any passenger from my day, and I sat on the Sun Deck watching the landscape go by from after breakfast until going to bed, the one exception being going into the Texas Bar for the 5 PM singalong/show. My bar bill included buying rounds for the band, and all the tipped crew got well more from me than the suggested rate. ... So while I realize your statement was a generalization, it surely hit me hard, knowing how much I've spent over the years, and willingly!.
                  Good point Judy, and I apologize; it wasn't meant as a hit at all, not even a light one ;-) Thinking it over, I guess you're absolutely right; I overlooked the amounts of money people are spending at the bar *especially* when there is nothing else to do.

                  Still the rest of what I said stands. I don't know any details of the plans of ACL and of course I was not involved in the research prior to ordering this new ship. I just know from some other major cruise lines how much effort they put into finding out what exactly their customers want or what they're willing to pay for. So I just assume that these features that are being criticised here DO have a reason and are not just there because nobody at ACL knew better. And if it's just for cost savings sake. If you have customers who just don't care about sheer, why spending $100.000 extra (or what ever it costs in total) for having a sheer and all the constructional and practical hassle that for sure comes along with it.

                  ACL has been in the small cruise ships business for many years and they know their customers very well - not like MAL who just jumped in, didn't know anything about it at all, assuming they can use their Holland-America knowledge and make revenue jump up just because they showed up.



                    Originally posted by Franz Neumeier View Post
                    Good point Judy, and I apologize; it wasn't meant as a hit at all, not even a light one ;-) Thinking it over, I guess you're absolutely right; I overlooked the amounts of money people are spending at the bar *especially* when there is nothing else to do.
                    I can guarantee you that I've never drunk a Michelob at home at 11AM, but when I returned from Prairie du Chien with that wonderful onions with a hamburger from Pete's stand, I went straight to the bar for a Michelob!

                    As long as we're talking bar here: I drank Planters Punches. Back then they were $2.50, $2.88 with gratuity. Anyway I was on for 28 straight days in 1977. At the end of the trip, the bar staff wanted to come clean - they pulled out a big jug of premixed PP so all they had to do was pour the Myers Rum on top. They said they knew I'd go through it. And they were right. However at that visit, I ordered a Michelob, just for spite!
                    And don't forget I mentioned the gift shop bill too. Some of what was bought there will be available at the post talk session of Carl Henry's River Ramblings Aug. 21. Donations will go to the Howard Museum. Funny how Tshirts shrink over the years......


                      m/v NEW ORLEANS

                      Earlier in this thread Frank mentioned that ACL ran the overnight boat NEW ORLEANS for a while in the 1980s. Here are two pictures of that at the Upper Bienville Wharf. I have better shots.... but where?
                      You'll see the NATCHEZ in the distance in the first one, and a harbor tugboat lit up in the night shot.
                      Attached Files


                        The new boat from ACL for the inland rivers is exciting and intriguing. I agree with Franz’s assessments of the companies goals. They need to make money. Thanks to Franz and Carmen that we have this forum to exchange our ideas and comments on so many topics.
                        The current discussion concerning the new boat reminds me of the birth and early career of the Mississippi Queen. I was inspired by the recent 1976 MQ photos that Travis has been posting on Face Book. Looking back on these photos I see the MQ in a little different light today than I did in 1976 when I wanted to be an original crew member on the first steamboat to be built in 50 years. I wanted it so bad that I gave up my college degrees, teaching career, and tenure to go carry luggage on a steamboat that was still in the shipyard. When the boat made its first appearances on the maiden voyage there was intense criticism of the “hotel on a barge”, the “floating box”, etc. that was coming from historians, experts, and traditional riverboat fans alike. Of course they were correct if they were looking for a traditional, historic, 1850’s style steamboat. The style and taste in 1976 was for more historically traditional architecture. At that time I could not argue against these comments because deep down I felt the same way but I also felt it was somewhat overdone and harsh. The point that drove me to these conclusions are some recent photos of the newest cruise ships. If you compare them to the traditional lines of even a freighter the best thing you can say about them is that they are a hideous box on a raft without the first sense of graceful lines. Where are the critics?
                        Today when I look back at those 1976 photos of the MQ I see a completely different boat. She was a beautiful boat but in her own style. Agreed, some of the changes over the years did not help her looks. The additions that destroyed the Promenade Deck did her no favors. The restructuring of her paddlewheel to make her functional were unfortunate. Many of the crew members at the time discussed amongst ourselves the interior décor as being disappointing since it was very modern for the times and did not speak “steamboat”. But we all agreed that an interior decorator could make improvements someday and those changes eventually came along. I guess what I am saying is that I wish the critics in 1976 would have been a bit less harsh because there were many paying passengers that loved the MQ and actually preferred her over the DQ. Personal taste.
                        I don’t intend for these recollections to dampen any discussions of rake, sheer, steam/non-steam, because I am for all of that as well. We should express our opinions. But please remember when the new boat hits the water and begins carrying passengers on the rivers, giving job opportunities to people like me back in 1976, and re-introducing new clients to the many charms of cruising our inland rivers that we give her a chance to be successful and find her place.
                        (note: ACL. Please send my free ticket for the Maiden Voyage to my home address. d;-})


                          I just want to add to all these good comments that, while I know ACL needs to make a profit, I believe they could make more money if they pay more attention to the market they are wanting to work within (i.e. the Inland Rivers).

                          To be a successful business you've got to know specific customer needs, and the market you're working within. Yes, they know blue water customers, but they could know a whole lot more about Western Rivers. For example, a "cruise ship" on a river doesn't need to have "everything" because you're always a few hundred yards from shore, and only a few miles from the next interesting landing. Private balconies? Swimming pool? DVRs with 300 channels in every room? Probably not necessary...

                          To ACL I say: When in Rome, do as the Romans... Scope out the inland rivers a bit more. Learn from the people who live and work the rivers. Study what the Greene Line did, and how they were successful by listening to customers, not being too greedy, and actually having a love for the rivers.


                            Regarding "style"

                            Some have said it doesn't matter that the new boat looks like boxes on a barge, that's the way many of the new blue water ships look. Well, you don't watch a blue water ship from the shore, they're out to sea, where the inside look is most important. Riverboats, by their very nature, are observed from shore much more than they are from inside. So I think style does matter more for a riverboat. And I think style sells!
                            HOWEVER, having said that, there is no accounting for taste, or the lack of it. Personally I think the new Honda Element is made of an element: Uglyum. Same thing with the Scion--breadbox on wheels (or roller skates)--but these things sell! I asked one new owner, "Why did you buy such an ugly car?" (I'm not noted for diplomacy sometimes!) His response was, "Look how much space I have inside!" So, it's a matter of taste and priorities, I guess.
                            Call me "Old School" (sounds better than "old Fart")
                            David D.
                            PS and I stand by my thought that only steam provides the quiet, smooth power that is so relaxing! Um, except when the calliope is playing--but then I LOVE that!


                              Hats off to Ted and Steve. I totally agree with everything they have said here. Even though I have been off the rivers for 20 some years I have still kept up somewhat and I rode the DQ on a reunion cruise in Aug. 97. I got on the MQ at Natchez in spring of 77 as a deckhand and remember everything about it at that time. Ted you were a purser by then I believe. Of course back then I didnt care much about how the boat was laid out or the decor being a 21 year old kid but looking back I recall the Fine Hotel look of the vessel and how she didnt look very Steamboatly but I did and always will love her just the same. I hated some of the changes they made to her such as the rooms on the Promenade deck and alot of the sprucing up they did as I was fine with the old plain Jane look she had back in the day but then some of us just hate changes we have no control over. I didnt like the changes to the DQ's Bow, Sun deck officers Qtrs, or stack either but again thats just me. Oh and Ted how many times did they change the MQ's wheel configuration, I seem to remember 2 or 3.


                                Originally posted by Frank X. Prudent View Post
                                All of ACL's boats are very plain Jane inside and out, and their fares are quite high. This is the same company that brought the illfated NEW ORLEANS to the Mississippi River System in the early 80's. Berlitz's "Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2010" rates all of their current boats as 2 star which is lower than all of Carnival Cruise Lines' ships' rankings of 3 and 3+.
                                Grandfather Zahn & I cruised ACL once back in 1983...and I concur...Grandpa had always remarked that he, our DQ friends from NYC; the Kiesels and myself were the "youngest passengers onboard", as Grandpa was 82 @ the time...and the Kiesel's were in their late 50's!
                                I highlighted the "once" as Grandpa felt the price, "no-frills" (like no bar) wasn't worth a return trip for him.

                                Also, with no-frills...most of the staff were college students on summer break as well, so they saved on labor costs.

                                I wish them well, they have big shoes to fill against the likes of the Delta Queen...and hopefully they'll suceed wonderfully!