Agent succeeds in aiding to 'Save the Queens'


he was Phyllis Dale, cabaret entertainer, when she serenaded audiences in a bright red dress aboard the Delta Queen steamboat.

She was Phyllis Dale, grass-roots activist, as she helped organize the "Save the Queens" awareness campaign when the Delta Queen Steamboat Co.'s parent firm declared bankruptcy and idled its ships.

And she was Phyllis Dale, triumphant travel agent, when she escorted a group of 100 clients and Delta Queen enthusiasts on a July cruise of the rejuvenated Mississippi Queen -- and then threw a big party on board to celebrate.

"It was a fabulous cruise," she said, her voice still hoarse from all the talking and singing she did during the July trip. "It was really something."

Dale, an outside agent with TraveLeaders in Winter Park, Fla., could claim victory with her campaign: All four Delta Queen river ships were bought out of bankruptcy and are scheduled to return to revenue service by next year.

Hospitality company Delaware North Cos. purchased the Delta Queen brand, along with three ships, the Delta, Mississippi and American Queens. The American West Steamboat Co. later bought the fourth ship, the Columbia Queen.

Dale has been busy, not only raising public awareness of the ships but also trying to convince travel agents that the ships are a solid, safe sale.

"These boats are sailing, and agents are missing out if they're not selling," Dale said. "The cruisers are out there who want to buy these cruises."

She said she plans to visit other Florida agencies to help them develop sales strategies, saying, "There's plenty of business out there for everyone."

Dale knows the Delta Queen ships inside and out. Before she became an agent, she was an entertainer on the Delta Queen for 11 years.

Last month, she said, she couldn't find fault with the Mississippi Queen. "There haven't been any drastic changes. [It's] spotless."

Dale said she plans to organize and escort three "Phyllis Dale Reunion" cruises each year, one on each of Delaware North's Delta Queen ships. The voyages will feature some of her fellow entertainers and friends from her steamboating days.

In addition to her group on the July Mississippi Queen cruise, Dale invited about 100 of her former Delta Queen colleagues to come join her party on the ship. Some, she said, drove more than seven hours to get to the shindig, which was held in port in Cincinnati.

David Simmons, Delta Queen's vice president of operations, showed up at the party and presented Dale with an American flag that once flew from the Delta Queen.

Then, Dale said, she sang, while Simmons accompanied on the drums.

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