In the Hot Seat: Bob Brennan

Glacier Bay Cruiseline was recently sold, and the line's new president, Bob Brennan, the former president of Sunmakers Travel Group, talked with Travel Weekly senior editor Rebecca Tobin about running the small-ship line in Alaska.

Q: What interests you about a small company like Glacier Bay Cruiseline?

A: Its uniqueness. I've tried several times to buy a company like this. ... What interested me is that it's an adventure product. It's not like your typical cruise operation.

Q: What are your plans for Glacier Bay?

A: We [Brennan and his fellow investors] bought three of the four ships: the Wilderness Explorer, the Wilderness Adventurer and the Wilderness Discoverer.

The other ship, the Executive Explorer, is a 49-passenger, overnight vessel, and we're in the process of putting a deal together to buy it, as well. We've got our 2004 brochure out.

Q: We've heard that commissions have not been paid out on voyages taken last year. What's going on?

A: I'm dealing with every one of [the agents who haven't been paid]. I have paid several of them. I didn't have to do it because I bought the assets of the company. [But] I'm a firm believer in the travel agent community.

I want to introduce myself [to agents], if nothing else, and check the validity of the claims.

Q: Are you concerned that there might be hesitation for agents to book?

A: I was fully aware there were commissions that had not been paid, and I'm dealing with that.

It wasn't just travel agents [who didn't get paid], it was suppliers and everybody else. I personally deal with all of those folks. Nobody wants to get a form letter.

All of our money that comes in goes to an escrow account. From that standpoint, [agents] should feel comfortable.

Q: Do your ships typically operate during the winter season?

A: We're looking at maybe Costa Rica or the Sea of Cortes. We're not sure yet how we're going to position it.

[Right now] we're just looking to get through Alaska. We've lost a few months of marketing time.

Q: How will you market and promote this company?

A: The normal, run-of-the-mill advertising. In publications such as [Travel Weekly]. Newspapers. Tertiary markets, not the big ones. We have some new offerings. We had early booking, which most of the cruise lines have. And then we have a standby seniors program, on short notice.

We have a new program in the Columbia River, which allows the customer to do seven rivers in seven days. I'm excited about the Columbia River [cruises] because nobody's tried the high adventure stuff. It's not only very scenic, but there's a tremendous amount to do.

To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].

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