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Goldbelt sails into tour season

Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Nearly a year after a cruise ship grounding -- the most catastrophic financial event in Goldbelt's history -- Juneau's Native corporation has repaired and remodeled the ship and is hoping for a smoother tourism season.

``We're proceeding cautiously,'' said President and CEO Gary Droubay, during a reception last week on board the Wilderness Adventurer. ``We can't afford to have any accidents. ... We feel like we've really got our act together.''

The Wilderness Adventurer, operated by Goldbelt subsidiary Glacier Bay Tours & Cruises, struck a rock in Glacier Bay National Park on June 12, 1999, in clear, calm weather.

There were no injuries to the 56 passengers and 24 crew members.

 

But what Droubay describes as ``just a weird, freak accident'' has cost the corporation dearly. A loss of $1.8 million in passenger bookings and other losses attributed to the accident led the management and board to cancel last fall's dividend for shareholders, triggering some political unrest.

``Our liquidity isn't as good as it was,'' Droubay said.

Some capital projects have been postponed, including an expansion of the Seadrome dock downtown, which would have allowed the corporation to earn more in moorage. Also on hold is a second observation deck at the top of the Mount Roberts Tramway.

Construction of a wide-screen theater in Ketchikan was postponed from last fall, but the board decided to go ahead this year anyway, even though it's ``a stretch,'' because of financial commitments already made, Droubay said.

With nearly $3 million in repairs and renovations, the Wilderness Adventurer has increased in book value from $4.5 million to about $6 million, Droubay said.

The 157-foot ship, which hauls kayaks and other outdoor equipment for wilderness excursions off-board, does a week-long voyage in Southeast.

Goldbelt expects to continue operating the Wilderness Adventurer and three other small cruise ships that were the subject of purchase negotiations several months ago.

Voyager Holdings, a Washington, D.C.-based subsidiary of D'Arcinoff Group, made an ``out of the blue'' offer for the four ships last fall. While the offer was attractive, the suitor got distracted by other business deals and by pending legislation in Congress, and the deal has gone from tentative to unlikely.

``We're assuming this is our operation,'' Droubay said.



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