For many visitors to New York City, an absolute must is the Circle Line sightseeing tour about or around Manhattan and along with World Yacht Dinner Cruises, the company decided to fill a niche it saw—between the dinner cruise and the walk-around-and-take-photos cruise—and a year ago launched the novel North River Lobster Company, essentially a lobster shack on a boat that floats on a 45-minute, slow moving journey that also includes a full service bar and a seafood menu that, of course, includes lobster. It takes off around mid-day and makes another four or five trips during the day. And it’s free. That’s right. There are actually some who ignore their foodie demons and take the tour without eating. This summer, the North River Lobster Company began to “take off,” aided by some highly favorable reviews in the local news media as well as by passengers who later posted their thoughts online.
To find out more what all the fuss is about, we spoke last Friday with Janice Bennett, director of travel industry sales for World Yachts/Circle Line, and a 20-plus-year veteran of the company. Following are excerpts from our conversation.
Inbound: So, why all the fuss about the North River Lobster Company?
Bennett: Well, It’s a fairly new product, but, because of demand, this year we’ve added 20 feet to each of the levels. We plan to welcome 120,000 guests this year.
Inbound: What’s the breakdown of your customers, your passengers—domestic vs. international?
Bennett: Most of it’s local because we’re new but there has been interest from the industry Receptive Tour Operators have been asking how than can offer it to their clients.
Inbound: Do you have an idea or an estimate of what it is as far as group vs. FIT?
Bennett: Most of the business now is by individual travelers, but there has been a tremendous increase in groups through after-work business and celebration events
Inbound: Your company offers the standard net-net rates for agents and operators. What else does it do for the travel trade?
Bennett: With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the Circle Line, we are offering a $70 rate for a combination of experiences (this includes a three day hop-on, hop-off admission to its ground tour product, OPEN LOOP New York, that industry members can re-sell. The package its worth $120. (While Bennett did not give us a group price for the featured dinner combo, it retails for $40, giving operators who buy it a margin somewhere in the mid-thirties and 40 dollars work with.)
Inbound: Some of the news articles about the North River Lobster Company have emphasized the fact that there’s no admission charge. Is this really true?
Bennett: It’s true; conceivably, someone could take the 45-minute ride for nothing. But we’ve built a bar at the waiting area right on the pier to serve passengers while they’re waiting and most people are interested in having something to eat or drink once on board.
Inbound: So, what are the key points that you stress when you talk with operators?
Bennett: It’s a unique product, a unique experience. We’re the first to offer a floating lobster shack in the Northeast. You can add it on to other product, like the Circle Line cruise. We also have dinner cruises and a deejay playing music. On Sundays, we have live music. It’s close to Times Square (a walk of a few blocks) and close to the Lincoln Tunnel. (This is important for buses who take the tunnel into New Jersey after dropping clients off at Pier 81.) And there’s a place for buses.
All cruises take off from Pier 81 where 41st Street meets the Hudson River on Manhattan’s West Side—about a four- block walk from Times Square. Contact Janice Bennet: [email protected]. For more information about the North River Lobster Company, visit: www.northriverlobsterco.com.