When the magnificent Showboat Branson Belle leaves the dock on her first 2017 Table Rock Lake cruise, on March 4, 2017, something special will happen. Her guests will be cruising into an exciting new experience. They will enjoy the improvements of Phase One of a two-year, multi-million dollar, “large-scale guest experience relaunch.” The relaunch delivers to the boat’s guests what they said they wanted during extensive research done in 2016.
Nick Guevel, Director of Operations for the Showboat Branson Belle, took time from his busy schedule to the talk with the Branson Tourism Center about the Branson Belle and the exciting new guest experience they will have in 2017.
BTC: How long have you been working at the Showboat Branson Belle?
NG: I’ve been with Herschend Family Enterprises for five years and with the Showboat Branson Belle for just over a year.
BTC: What does the Director of Operations do?
NG: They manage the complete operation of the Showboat. This includes everything from marketing and ticket sales to the daily execution of cruises and customer service.
BTC: If you could write the headline for an article describing the experience your guests will have on the Branson Belle in 2017 what would it be?
NG: Showboat Branson Belle launching exciting new guest experience in 2017!
BTC: In 2017, the Showboat’s guests will enjoy the enhancements of Phase One of a two year multi-million dollar “large-scale guest experience relaunch.” What was the driving force behind the project?
NG: Giving our guests an experience creating “Memories worth repeating” has always been our mission. To do that we are constantly evolving to give our guests the best experience possible. Last year we conducted extensive research to get their opinion as to what they wanted. This project delivers what they said they wanted.
BTC: What are some of the major elements of Phase 1?
NG: A complete redo of our theatre and dining area including carpeting, stage, chairs, wall paper and painting. The launch of a new summer show, “Country on the Lake;” menu changes, expansion of the premium dining area, entertainment on the top deck; modification of the panoramic windows throughout the boat so the curtains won’t have to be drawn while guests enjoy the show, and much more.
BTC: Of all the physical enhancements in Phase One, which one are you personally most excited about?
NG: I’m most enthused about those that focus on enhancing the experience of the lake for our guests. One example is taking the curtains off the giant panoramic windows throughout the boat so that our guests can see the lake at all times while on the boat.
BTC: Does glare coming through the windows interfere with guests enjoying the show?
NG: No. We have a coating on the windows that reduces glare while permitting the guests to enjoy both the show and the view of the lake.
BTC: In the past, a premium dining and seating experience was offered in the Paddle Wheel Room. How is that experience changing for 2017?
NG: We have guests on the boat that want the best deal they can get. We also have guests that are willing to pay for premium experiences. In 2017 we are growing our premium seating and the amenities that go along with it. Our “Captain’s Club Premium Seating and Dining Experience” includes priority boarding, ordering from a menu with a choice of delicious entrees, and premium seating. The 60 premium dining seats, the first three rows in the balcony, are considered “the best seats in the house.” The “upcharge,” from “General Admission,” to “Captain’s Club” is $20.00 for adults and $10.00 for children..
BTC: Will the “Paddle Wheel Room,” still be part of the premium dining experience?
NG: No. In the past it was, but diners then missed the pre-show.
BTC: Will the enhancement include more room between seats?
NG: Yes. One of the things people told us during our research was that they wanted more room. We have removed seats from the boat so that there is more room between each seat.
BTC: What are the Phase Two enhancements?
NG: We’re going to continue to work on the remodel of our front atrium area, more seating and activities on the exterior of the boat, the top deck, and more work on the White River Landing area where people arrive.
BTC: Why the emphasis on more seating and activities on the exterior of the boat?
NG: We are trying to make the outside of the boat more flexible for each guest. We want to create an opportunity for guests to go up to the top deck and enjoy it their way. If they want to sit up front and listen to the music we have seats for that. If they want to go find a quiet place on the boat to just sit and talk, we want to have nice seating for that too. We’re trying to create these “pods” around the boat with activities and seating where people can really get to use the boat to maximize their experience.
BTC: Could you give an example of where these “pods” would be located?
NG: Throughout the exterior of the boat we have spaces where we are creating unique comfortable settings for people to enjoy. The back of the boat on the top deck provides a lot of flexibility, but there are other areas. One would be the “atrium balconies” at the front of the boat on each level.
BTC: What one thing about the first phase of the enhancement project means the most to you?
NG: For me, there’s a sense of pride in that we are delivering on what our guest research told us our guests wanted. It’s satisfying to me to know that we not only asked, but that we listened.
BTC: Will the boarding process be a little different in 2017 than in the past?
NG: Yes. We want people to relax and enjoy the experience. That starts with giving them more time to shop and enjoy the landing, maybe have a coke before boarding. We also wanted to do away with long boarding lines and make it a more fluid experience. Everyone has an assigned seat so there’s no need to rush on board. We will call smaller groups by row. You listen for your row, we will scan your ticket and you go right down and sit in your seat. There’s no need to wait in those long lines.
BTC: CELEBRATE is the headline show of the Showboat Branson Belle. Are there any major cast or production changes from last year?
NG: Our all-star cast is returning. This includes the ShowMen, our talented vocal group; Cassandré Faimon-Haygood, one of Branson’s premier female vocalists and entertainers; the four-man dance troupe Rhythm; and comedian emcee Christopher James will all be returning. The Rockin’ Dockers, one of the finest live bands anywhere, will also be back.
BTC: Will there be changes in the music in CELEBRATE?
NG: Yes. Our research indicated that our guests wanted more classic rock. Although there will certainly be a variety of music, with something for everyone, it’s going to be much more focused on classic rock.
BTC: Can you give us an example of the artists whose music will be included?
NG: Sure, Billy Joel, Elton John, The Beatles and others. The songs will be songs, that you grew up listening to and will get your toes tapping.
BTC: Is magic and comedy still part of CELEBRATE?
NG: Absolutely and in a big way! Christopher James, our emcee is fabulous with his ultra-sharp improvisation, magic and humor.
BTC: The Branson Belle is featuring a new noon show for 2017 called Country on the Lake. What lead to the decision to change to the new country format?
NG: Our guest research told us that there is a real love for country music and specifically, 1990’s country music.
BTC: What type of music will it feature?
NG: It will be a musical journey through some of the most popular country music of the 90s along with some of the southern classic rock hits that influenced that music.
BTC: Will the menu for that show be different than the CELEBRATE! menu?
NG: Yes. It has been designed to enhance the overall country experience of our guests. It includes slow smoked pork, smoked at Silver Dollar City and delivered fresh to the boat each day; BBQ Chicken, loaded baked potatoes; roasted corn; homemade rolls; a great spring mix salad and ice cream pie for dessert. It’s also made at Silver Dollar City and transported to the boat.
BTC: So the CELEBRATE! and Country On the Lake shows will have different casts, a different show, and a different meal?
NG: They are two entirely different experiences resulting in one thing. An extremely enjoyable and entertaining experience providing “Memories worth repeating.”
If you’d like more information on the Showboat Branson Belle please call the Branson Tourism Center at 1-800-785-1550. A Branson based Vacation Specialist will answer any questions you have about Branson lodging, shows, or attractions. They can also help with ticketing, reservations and getting the best available show seats and lodging. There is no charge for this service and they are available daily, except Christmas Day, from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM.