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*Back from France/River cruise boats*

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    *Back from France/River cruise boats*

    Morning, Steamboating colleagues:
    Just returned yesterday PM from nearly the full month in France from north to south, east to west by car, high speed TVG train [over 200 plus mph] along with W.W. II battle landing sites and American Cemetery in Normandy, Paris, Loire Valley, Carcassonne, Caen, Bayeux, Mediterranean coat . One great trip following my previous kidney surgery that laid me low. With me nursing the 'ouchies' in September, I was unable to attend the annual meeting of S&D in Marietta, Ohio. I filed my financial report being read by S&D Board of Governor chairman Lee Woodruff. So much for that.

    I don't know much about "Just curious" as appearing on one of the upper threads here but I did see, visit, tour more than a few of the new style European cruise boats on the rivers and canals there from Germany down through France. Though not making a cruise on them, I was given permission to come aboard and look them over as no passengers aboard with them working on 'turn around' day, At the French city of Avigon on the Rhone River, there were no less than two to three big cruise boats in there daily. Though 'different' in design than what we know here, make no mistake--these boats are not only bigger than you think but beautifully designed, appointed. They are a reality here to stay. More than a few lines operate in France: VIKING RIVER, UNIWORLD, AVON etc. with most to all boats designed, built, engineered in Germany. No question in my mind they are efficient and economical to operate.

    Just "walking" several boats there drew my attention to their very un-Mississippi River 'steamboat' design with rather high 'ship bows' with no swinging stages and numerjous capstans, docking equipment. All passengers, equipment, supplies on and off by gangway doors port and starboard with a usual/customary passenger reception/purser offices etc. midships. As mentioned on this site these boats designed to dock along river quays and landings only--not head bow in for landings with swinging stages similar to here. VIKING RIVER better look again, think long and hard over their designs for our rivers here. Bridges are generally older, lower with many arches there causing more than a few dealayed or canceled cruises when rivers are high. Cabins are more than ample with grand stair cases, dinning rooms, lounges etc. along with large, open top decks. The officer on one VIKING RIVER boat was effusive to me in English, "You do know were are coming to the United States on your rivers there." I held my tongue.

    One design 'curiosity' catching my attention was seeing cabins built on the lower hull with ports/windows just above the waterline. On one large passenger vessel I also noted hull pipe openings along the side with water frequently jetting out and into the river. I wondered what that 'water' was but didn't ask No doubt this and the cabins low in the outside hulls two glaring 'NO, NO' I think our U.S. Coast Guard and other officials will take a careful look at. The VIKING officer also mentioned, "You know our boats will be built and crewed in and by Americans." One couple on the VIKING boat talked with me on the quay saying, "The food aboard is wonderful but we wonder how they'll do with all American crews back home." Well, again, what do I know?

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

    #2
    Originally posted by R. Dale Flick View Post
    Morning, Steamboating colleagues:
    Just returned yesterday PM from nearly the full month in France from north to south, east to west by car, high speed TVG train [over 200 plus mph] along with W.W. II battle landing sites and American Cemetery in Normandy, Paris, Loire Valley, Carcassonne, Caen, Bayeux, Mediterranean coat . One great trip following my previous kidney surgery that laid me low. With me nursing the 'ouchies' in September, I was unable to attend the annual meeting of S&D in Marietta, Ohio. I filed my financial report being read by S&D Board of Governor chairman Lee Woodruff. So much for that.

    I don't know much about "Just curious" as appearing on one of the upper threads here but I did see, visit, tour more than a few of the new style European cruise boats on the rivers and canals there from Germany down through France. Though not making a cruise on them, I was given permission to come aboard and look them over as no passengers aboard with them working on 'turn around' day, At the French city of Avigon on the Rhone River, there were no less than two to three big cruise boats in there daily. Though 'different' in design than what we know here, make no mistake--these boats are not only bigger than you think but beautifully designed, appointed. They are a reality here to stay. More than a few lines operate in France: VIKING RIVER, UNIWORLD, AVON etc. with most to all boats designed, built, engineered in Germany. No question in my mind they are efficient and economical to operate.

    Just "walking" several boats there drew my attention to their very un-Mississippi River 'steamboat' design with rather high 'ship bows' with no swinging stages and numerjous capstans, docking equipment. All passengers, equipment, supplies on and off by gangway doors port and starboard with a usual/customary passenger reception/purser offices etc. midships. As mentioned on this site these boats designed to dock along river quays and landings only--not head bow in for landings with swinging stages similar to here. VIKING RIVER better look again, think long and hard over their designs for our rivers here. Bridges are generally older, lower with many arches there causing more than a few dealayed or canceled cruises when rivers are high. Cabins are more than ample with grand stair cases, dinning rooms, lounges etc. along with large, open top decks. The officer on one VIKING RIVER boat was effusive to me in English, "You do know were are coming to the United States on your rivers there." I held my tongue.

    One design 'curiosity' catching my attention was seeing cabins built on the lower hull with ports/windows just above the waterline. On one large passenger vessel I also noted hull pipe openings along the side with water frequently jetting out and into the river. I wondered what that 'water' was but didn't ask No doubt this and the cabins low in the outside hulls two glaring 'NO, NO' I think our U.S. Coast Guard and other officials will take a careful look at. The VIKING officer also mentioned, "You know our boats will be built and crewed in and by Americans." One couple on the VIKING boat talked with me on the quay saying, "The food aboard is wonderful but we wonder how they'll do with all American crews back home." Well, again, what do I know?

    R. Dale Flick
    Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati
    Thanks for this expert analysis, Dale. As to American crew effectiveness, judging from what we did with DQSC, I have no doubt they can do it. The fact that pax will be largely American helps a lot. I think the key will be having a head of Hotel Ops who is intimately familiar with overnight riverboat ops, has the right concept of how to treat the crew...and follow that up with exclusively American department heads and Hotel Manager.

    Comment


      #3
      *European river boat management*
      Hi, Keith:
      Thanks for the comments with apology on my part for a few 'typos' I didn't catch early as I'm still somewhat grogy from the long flight home and jet lag. Our plane blew an engine at the terminal with us being provided with another night in a hotel with food etc. until yesterday. I agree with your comments above on crew etc. Most to all of the European river cruise vessels and even those running in Russia have/are organized under the traditional Swiss and German schools of hotel management and culinary operations whether the food is all French or not. Other smaller five star ***** operations are done with finely remodeled canal boats accommodating from 8 to 12 plus passengers. Cruise tarrifs, naturally, are premium. Again, you get what you pay for and, as they say, "Going 1st Class only costs a little bit more."

      The passenger compliment I saw on board while visiting or ashore pretty much of the same age, composition as those we saw on the DELTA QUEEN or AMERICAN QUEEN and cruise ships. Being of that generation now myself I should know with no complaints. Decidedly with these boats people with the time and disposable income. STILL, unless VIKING RIVER rethinks, revamps their overall design for our rivers, I think they are bound for big problems. Not all eager beaver river towns/cities are going to cough up the revenue to build 'quay' type landings at the snap of their fingers for side docking as they do there due to our wildly fulctuating river levels with high water often lasting weeks. They'll learn their lesson and quick. Again, only my observations with me stating, "What do I know?"

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

      Comment


        #4
        *VIKING department heads/Hotel managers*
        Steamboating colleagues:
        Keith, thanks for your follow posting above which I read again. I'm not milking out this discussion more than I have too but felt comments were acceptable following my recent experiences. Frankly, I was surprised I was permitted to board/'walk' the several passenger boats in France docked at Avignon on the Rhone. 'Chatting up' a crew member or officers can pay off. I always carry my U.S. Passport abroad and simply took it out to show them for assurances of who I was along with mentioning several boat/ship organizaions I hold memership in. There were no problems as the boats were 'empty' preparing for the next flock of passengers. Any poster or 'lurker' here can simply go on line typing in European river cruise vessels: VIKING RIVER, UNIWORLD, AVON etc. for a bevy of web sites to pop up. Also links to European canal boat operators. The Rhone River surprisingly no small stream in my eyes but with a much faster current. The Loire River at Amboise has no navigable channel with many different diverging, shallow channels, big shifting sand bars prone to seasonal flooding reminding me of a slightly bigger Big Miami River here. The Loire considered as the last truly 'wild, natural' river in France.

        I have no doubts that VIKING, in time, will send a cadre of staff over here to break in their system, train the crew and officers. Obviously they are a hands on operation and may base staff here to keep an eye on things, lift up the cooking pots to check what's cooking, see the bed linen dressed tight. German and Swiss hotel/food operations are like that. My question is if they will hire captains, mates, crew from our own rivers? I may be wrong, but I 'thought' that our own Jim Reising and even Kenny Howe and wives may have previously cruised on boats there. Am I right or wrong? Capts. Bob Reynolds, Bill Judd, Don Sanders etc. may know the U.S. regulations/law for contstructing said boats here. My understanding was that passenger vessel hulls 'were once' legislated to be built here in U.S. yards if operating on U.S. waters, rivers, bays, sounds, lakes. Now, as to the cabins, equipment, furnishings, finishing touches all of this could be assembled in modular fashion over there and shipped by sea here for unloading, assembly. Passenger cabins now even with bath/shower facilities are done in 'modular pods' being slipped in as units. The big blue water cruise ship builders in Europe employ this method now speeding up construction of ships like one big jig saw puzzle with NO wood allowed period. Similar Coast Guard divisions in European countries no less stringent than here whether we like it or not. No, I did not venture to ask permission to see the big stern engine spaces with generators etc. From what I did see the engine department is tight and well planned using diesel engines with little to no exaust I witnessed. Things on the water in Europe also 'going green' with the environment like here. Smoke exhaust afloat and ashore possibly more strictly regulated than here. These boats also compact trash unloaded in big bins on the quay like here. I had no way of estimating the crew complement or number from what I saw as some were working, others ashore. In Euopre food service, hotel operations are professional for many men and women as a career. I couldn't detect if they had any 'college types' working aboard. Who knows? Food, beverage, linens, supplies etc. were being delivered there same as here. The big 'Catherine' operated by UNIWORLD is equipped by even green neon lights running the decks and superstructure. At first I thought it 'garish' but seeing it at night made a different, positive impression. VIKING seems to have negated the use of such deck lights. Cabin windows mostly that darkish one-way glass so passenger can see OUT and not people looking IN from the shore or docked at the quay. Naturally all is immaculate, sparkling, pristine. Only time will tell what happens here. We just wait and watch. Again, what do I know?

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

        Comment


          #5
          Thanks for the report Dale. It will indeed be interesting to see what their final design for US Rivers looks like. I'm sure they haven't overlooked some of these functional differences, or at least I would hope not. It will certainly change the form of their boats, but I myself still expect to see something yaght/longboat like with some sort of landing modification.

          Comment


            #6
            Dale, a few years ago we traveled on Uniworld's RIVER ROYAL on the Rhone River. It was a wonderful trip.....the Rhone is not a pretty river but the towns were fascinating. In Arlies they have a coliseum (2/3's the size of the one in Rome and several years older) which they still use today only no gladiators and wild animals but rock concerts. Come to think of it, maybe there are still wild animals in the coliseum.
            I think you might have the cart before the horse, I believe the boats were designed for the facilities already in existence, not the ports changed to fit the boats. For the rivers they are on and for passenger comfort, they are well designed and work very well.
            As for the crew, all of the "service" personnel were from eastern Europe. Like all cruise ships, Uniworld used an agency to provide that part of the crew. The pursers office was staffed by people from the region the boat operated in..French on the rivers in France and Germans, Dutch, Austrians on the Danube/Rhine. And in the off season, Uniworld sends the pursers to the towns and cities they stop in to get with the city govts. to iron out any problems the boats or passengers may have encountered.
            I asked the purser why they didn't have any Americans in the service crew and he bluntly said "they won't work and we can't keep them on the boat". He went on to say that American crew members think they are on a cruise not a work place. And work the crew does...the maid who made your bed in the morning, waits your table at dinner and washes the dinner dishes.
            But, all in all, they were very well run boats, with good food, comfortable, modern rooms and excellent service. I truly believe that Viking will take over the American market in just a few years and they will "make a market" for river cruising in America. They are smart, experienced operators who wouldn't be entering this market if they didn't think there was a lot of money to be made here.

            Comment


              #7
              *European 'quays'/Your cruise*
              Hi, Jim!'
              So, I was right remembering you two did cruise on European rivers--Rhone etc. What got me about the Rhone was not only it's considerable width at Avigon but the rapid current. Your views, news, talk with their purser about crew...long hours...about what I expected. Those river cruise boat people work and work hard with, as you say, many jobs to do. We see this also on the big blue water cruise ships annually or or more often with waiters, bus boys and girls, stewards, bar tenders working other jobs.

              The big question I had--and not anwswered--is if VIKING designers will/have rethought the design of their boat there for the rivers here. This meaning a lower 'steamboat bow' with some kind of landing stage while eliminating the port/starboard loading gangway doors. I thought I was clear in writing but yes, I did mention the old, traditional 'landing quays' on European rivers where the boats just slip alongside and tie up. This far from what they may find here with our vast rivers, big rises of water for a long time. The Loire, Rhone, Seine etc. do flood there with recent drastic impact. Any American river city who jumps on the band wagon upon being 'lured' by VIKING to build river-side 'quay' type landing spots better think again. A few recent reports tell of European rivers in flood stage with those boats tied up unable to get under many of those very old, classic bridges with multiple arches. In some locales I did see newer high bridges for easier clearance. I didn't see 'Unifworld's' RIVER ROYAL but did see, 'walk' their huge CATHERINE with the green neon lights outlining the decks. We also saw going in and out of Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris a number of arriving passengers with reps with red flags and clip boards in uniform to meet them for VIKING, UNIWORLD, AVON etc. Then today I looked in my U.S. Mail box only to find one fancy, slick book from VIKING with information on their cruises, prices, deck plans etc. for year 2016. How they got my name I can only guess. Looks wonderful--but you'll pay for it.

              Now another brochure here from CRYSTAL Cruises announcing they are entering the European river cruise market with a new fleet of five vessels that are stunning. VIKING bought up former Peter Deilman vessels with others to be remodeled, expanded--even reducing some boats to lesser passenger capacity with larger cabins and full big suites with pool, gym, running track on top etc. CRYSTAL also to offer not only culinary spectacles in their dining rooms but take passengers ashore for Michellin-starred restaurants and evening events.

              Our own American rivers are vast, beautiful even without castles and palaces. The potential is here and waiting. ACL, AMERICAN QUEEN and, hopefully, DELTA QUEEN can well compete. Time will tell and we shall see. It's a tough market with some often being 'shaken out' or taken over.

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

              Comment

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