Great American Journeys Cancels 06 Schedule

Not surprisingly, financially troubled Great American Journeys canceled all Northwest riverboat cruises for the 2006 season. Its vessel, the 160-passenger Columbia Queen ceased sailing months ago, and the U.S. Maritime Administration—which had held the mortgage on the ship—recently sold the note to Ambassadors Travel International, owner of American West Steamboat, and a competitor of Great American Journeys. But Douglas Toms, co-owner of Great American Journeys, has told Seattle media he hopes to get back in business with the ship next year after he is able to secure new investors. Great American laid off most staff late last year, and owes thousands of dollars in unpaid agent commissions. Toms said he is continuing to negotiate with a group of New Jersey investors interested in forming a new company to operate the ship. He said Great American still holds operating rights to the ship, and has no intention of selling to Ambassadors. That said, if Great American is behind in its mortgage payments, it is a sticky situation legally. Toms said Great American owes $8.7 million in principal payments on the mortgage, which Ambassadors reportedly bought for $5 million. To add to the difficulty of the situation, Great American Journeys—not in bankruptcy—is a division of a larger travel group owned by Simplot and Toms, which ran Glacier Bay Cruiseline; the latter filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last year.

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