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Clues to the future from MAL?

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    #31
    All;
    I think that we are probably going to need someone in both the House and the Senate to add the exemption for the DQ as a rider on another bill just as Leonore Sullivan did originally to get around Congressman Garmatz.
    As to the CG position that they have very few steam qualified inspectors, the Federal Railroad Administration at one time said the same thing and I don't recall how that was resolved. I might add that the current federal law on boiler rebuilds is considerably better than it used to be. Formerly, the total time since the last flue change was used, now it is time in service with a maximum of 15 years calendar wise.
    The first thing we need is to get the exemption renewed and then to get it made permanent.

    Dan

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      #32
      My, my, my....

      Thank you, Frank, for that stunning piece of info. I figured that MAL was in trouble, but I didn't realize how badly they (and other subsidiaries?) were hurting the parent company.

      So back to the issue that Franz and David (and maybe many others) would like for me to keep under my hat: who will run the DQ when we win the exemption? If you are a CEO whose stock has tanked (52% below its recent high, while the S&P is off only about 5%), or if you are a subsidiary president responsible for much of that tanking, you are already talking with executive search firms about "pursuing other career opportunities." I don't want to hurt Mr. Giersdorf's feelings needlessly, but he may not be around when the DQ begins her 2008 season, so we need to think about post-MAL (or at least post-Giersdorf) strategy.

      Come on, guys -- I'm not talking about marching on Seattle with torches. I'm talking about keeping our eyes open and thinking ahead.

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        #33
        DQ vs. MQ, and MAL's intentions

        Originally posted by Judy Patsch View Post
        Thank you, Professor for those insights. I have questions regarding the high costs/lower revenue of the DQ:
        1) There is no way I'd ever believe that operating the DQ costs more than operating the MQ. The MQ has had mechanical problems, and major ones, throughout her career. For instance, in July '04 she was laid up here at Davenport for 6 days, 20 hours, and 7 minutes for boiler repairs. Not only did they have the expenses for these repairs, but one trip which was to end in St. Louis ended here and the pax had to be bussed to St. L. The next group likewise was bussed up here. Their final destination was to be New Orleans, but I think they made it to Natchez - wherever, it involved more bussing and hotels, etc. They also gave each passenger a free trip on the MQ. I realize a company carries insurance, but surely it can't cover all these expenses. This was the most extensive boiler layup of the MQ's history, but she has had continuous boiler and other mechanical problems over the years, not to mention the sinking in 1985. Also, her crew is double the size of the DQ's, and usually wages make up a major part of expenses. And of course, no fault of the MQ, but we can recall the lost revenue and added expenses from the 'virus' incidents last year. Now the extensive remodeling, much of it due to new Coast Guard regulations.... In short, the MQ has to be more expensive to run and maintain than the DQ.
        2) The obvious big negative of the DQ is her passenger capacity, no way around that one. However, in recent history there have been many more 'bargain basement' deals to fill up the AQ and MQ than the DQ has needed. My point: Would the fares that 174 DQ passengers pay for a cruise equal what 350 or so MQ/AQ paid? And how many AQ/MQ trips have had that many passengers on board? I'd suspect the DQ's income isn't that much less than the AQ's this year... if it is.
        3) Brand recognition How many people have heard of the MQ or the AQ and not of the DQ? How many people have booked a cruise on any of the Queens because of having heard of the DQ? While it would be logical to assume that if the berths available are cut down, the remaining 2 boats would fill up better. That is obviously your thinking as a business prof. However, as a DQ veteran, do you think that not only all her diehard repeaters, but also potential newcomers would transfer their trips to one of the other Queens? Steamboating is a world unto itself, and doesn't necessarily fit all the business molds. I'd appreciate your comments on my musings....
        Really good points, Judy -- but I suspect that your thinking goes deeper than MAL has gone. Companies under pressure from short-run-focused shareholders typically cannot think very deeply; they have to cut costs and boost profits NOW, or everybody gets fired. In line with a recent suggestion on this board that MAL wants to run only the AQ, they may have considered your points 1 & 2 -- and decided that the DQ and MQ are both losers. Likelier they think that $26 million (or whatever) can fix the MQ's problems.

        Your point 3 is way beyond their depth. MAL is pretty much clueless about the DQ's target market. They seem to believe that the cruise market is largely undifferentiated -- the same people who have ridden the DQ 50 or more times will just as eagerly ride their new boats to Alaska, or cruise with a competitor or another AMIE subsidiary in the Caribbean. Thus we were "treated" this summer to spa bathrobes and to new stateroom decor evocative of a nice new airport hotel. And the Majestic "bumper sticker" in place of the eagle on her pilot house. And Windstar cruise brochures in the forward cabin lounge.

        You are right -- the DQ's real target market is very specific and very brand-loyal to the DQ as she has been. My guess is that fewer than half of DQ bookings over the five years my wife and I have ridden her could be converted to AQ-MQ bookings. But their marketing people do not see that. They do not really comprehend the DQ's historic mystique.

        My first clue to this lack of comprehension came when earlier this summer I read through MAL's glossy new 2008 cruise planner and found a picture touting the historic delights of "Vicksburg, Virginia." Of course, the page describing the DQ made no reference to her history. Hey, a boat is a boat -- and the way you sell space on a boat is with spa bathrobes.

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          #34
          Judy, Judy, Judy!! Don't let me chase you away! Your input is very much welcomed. Besides, I have to stay on your good side, if I want to someday sample your infamous cookies! Mine, I'm sure, don't hold a candle to them--although the crew does make them disappear anyways!. I agree, our discussions on expenses and propulsion have, for the most part, been mostly non-confrontational, but there have been some posts questioning MAL's intents and management that could be construed as such. We all care so much for the boat that it is hard for us to understand their remote-viewed decision-making process. And before I become confrontational to them, I will stop here! I get in a lot of trouble with the city for speaking my mind, and I've found that it jeapordizes my job--sometimes months later!
          BTW, has anyone thought of forming our own corporation and buying the boats??? We'd be the best stockolders they ever had!! (There I go, going off-heading myself!)
          S'
          David D.

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            #35
            The CEO of Ambassadors International, Joseph Ueberroth, probably has a good chance of keeping his job, if he can figure out how to get out of the fix he's MAL in. And not unlike Titipu where much power rests with Pooh-Bah, Ueberroth is Chairman of the Board and President of the company to boot. It's the family business that he runs; of course, now that it's gone public, there are those pesky Wall Street types that he has to keep amused. I don't think David Giersdorf has that connection, so, on the other hand, he is probably updating his resume.

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              #36
              Ah, comprehension! As a retired reading teacher I understand that - lack of experential background limits comprehension. Check out the '08 schedule further, and you'll find several trips which are listed as Mississippi River cruises whose stops include: Louisville, Madison, Henderson, Paducah. Last I looked, those were on a creek called the Ohio...

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                #37
                I would like to remind us all that during the '01 bankruptcy, the DQ was the only one of the three boats to continue cruising. Would this have been the case if she were the red ink bleeding monster some would have us believe? I think not.

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                  #38
                  David --

                  In response to your momentary loss of focus ("forming our own corporation ..."), I must say "Yes"" -- on our Aug. 10-17 trip, several of us loyalists kicked around the possibility of each ponying up $10,000 to buy the DQ. At the current "suggested retail price," it would take 800 of us. Add in working capital and a licensing fee to MAL to allow us to run in competition with them, and we probably would need something on the high side of 2,000 of us (fewer if we can attract some deep-pocket folks).

                  And dang blast it, this is not off-heading! This is akin to approaching the first half of an S-bend in the river with attention to being properly positioned for the second half (does that metaphor work? my career research interest has been in railroads, not waterways). This issue is an absolutely essential part of our planning.

                  Does my harping on this point, and the problems at MAL which make it true, constitute being "confrontational?" Well, maybe -- if Mr. Giersdorf pays any attention to this website, he might think so. But I (and Frank Prudent's postings align with me) believe that Giersdorf has more important matters to worry about than a few hundred disgruntled (or solicitous) steamboat fans. If we kiss up to him, he still will not help us; if we tick him off, he won't bother going out of his way to hurt us more than he already has. He is struggling to keep his job, and we probably are an annoyance to him at best or worst.

                  The tradition of my profession is to seek and to speak truth. I have never found it to be right -- or in the long run, practical -- to pretend not to know that which I know to be true. Eventually, someone will ask me why I didn't tell them what I knew.

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                    #39
                    OK, thinking about this (See Judy, I do it too!) some more, $10,000 doesn't seem so bad when you consider that we spend $6,000 just to ride her for 10 days--in a bunk bed! (I still can't belive we're doing that), so, there must be some out there that would put up more than that. I'd say we'd need to raise about $10 mil. to do the job right (buy the boat, and other stuff, and then hire folks to market it, marketing costs, etc. etc.) and even then we'd be doing it on a shoestring!
                    I think it's do-able, but then I've got these rose-colored glasses. . . .
                    BTW, I like your metaphor, it works! Now if we can avoid that hidden sandbar. . . .
                    And BTW, I think this little band of fans CAN get the public to rally behind our cause and make congress take note!
                    S'
                    David "been out in the sun too long" Dewey

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                      #40
                      When a picture is worth 1,000 words.....

                      Judy, it's not just the omitted Ohio River where she's going! Although they don't mention it, the ads show her heading into frozen, iceberg-filled waters. Is she going to Alaska? We all know pictures don't lie, right? For example......
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