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Business fades for 2 cruisers

News, Tips & Bargains | TRAVEL LOG

January 15, 2006|Jane Engle

TWO small Seattle-based cruise lines have hit rough financial waters.

Great American Journeys, which runs the 161-passenger Columbia Queen on Pacific Northwest rivers, is not expected to sail the ship as scheduled Feb. 17, said Doug Toms, an owner of CQ Vessel Acquisition, the line's parent company in Seattle. Toms said he co-owned the company with Don J. Simplot.

Simplot is listed on the board of J.R. Simplot Co., a giant food and agribusiness conglomerate in Boise, Idaho.

In an interview last week, Toms said CQ Vessel Acquisition had laid off about a dozen staff members and owed thousands of dollars to travel agents in unpaid commissions.

As of the Travel section's deadline Tuesday, the company's toll-free phone number, (800) 901-9152, went unanswered, and a recording told callers that the mailbox was full. The firm's website, www.greatamericanjourneys.com, continued to promote upcoming sails.

"I'm confident that we will get refinanced and will resume operations," Toms said.

He said CQ Vessel Acquisition had not filed a Chapter 11 petition but that Simplot had. That filing had contributed to the company's financial problems, Toms said. He added he is seeking a "new equity partner."

An employee at J.R. Simplot said Tuesday that Simplot was not returning media calls. His attorney, Jerome Shulkin of Seattle, also declined to comment.

In addition, another Seattle company, GB Vessel Acquisition, which Toms said he and Simplot also co-owned, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. It operated Glacier Bay Cruiseline, which had four small ships and had run Alaska cruises for two decades.

Toms said the cruises lost money last year. "We're looking into reinventing that company."

Both cruise lines maintain escrow accounts designed to protect passengers' deposits, according to the Federal Maritime Commission.

Prices up at Disney, Universal

SEVERAL theme parks around the country have raised entrance prices.

In Southern California, Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim on Jan. 3 began charging $3 more for one-day admission. Entry now costs $59, including tax, for ages 10 and up; ages 3 to 9 pay $49; under 3 is free.

Disney spokesman Rob Doughty said prices were raised to cover increasing costs.

Universal Studios Hollywood on Nov. 1 raised one-day admission prices by $2 to $55, including tax, for those 48 inches or taller and $45 for those under 48 inches. The increase, said spokesman Eliot Sekuler, "reflects our cost of doing business."

In Florida, Universal Orlando this month raised one-day admission to $67.10, with tax, from $63.64 for ages 10 and up, and to $55.38 from $51.12 for ages 3 to 9; under 3 is free. The rates matched those that Walt Disney World began charging Jan. 1. (Online purchases were discounted; themeparks.universalstudios.com.)

-- Jane Engle

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