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The Deep: Celebration River Cruises

Celebration River Cruises is in the entertainment industry, they specialize in cruises on their paddle wheel boat, the Celebration Belle.  Celebration has been operating since 1984 in the Quad City area and is operated by Joe Schadler and his son, Scott Schadler.   The Schadlers had a web site for their business when they contacted us, they weren’t particularly happy with it and didn’t feel as though they were really maximizing the site to its full potential.

The new Celebration site was launched in December of 2010.    Now, it has been over a year since we launched the new web site for Celebration and we thought this is a good time to explain how the project happened and how the site has ended up performing for them overall.

Below is a screen shot of the Celebration Cruises web site prior to our revamp. You can click on it for a larger view.

When we got the call we took at the web site and immediately noticed some problem areas.  The color scheme was a bit harsh, the logo was not well positioned or presented.   Their fantastic logo, by the way, was designed by Craig Pirmann of Walnut Ridge Studio.  We also noticed inconsistency in the font usage, improper navigation and low res images used to show case their beautiful boat.

Within hours of receiving the call from Robin Schadler, Joe’s wife and Marketing Director, we had a meeting setup and discussed their needs for a web site. We were also informed that they would like their proprietary cruise management software integrated as well, so their customers could pay and reserve their cruise online and the system automatically schedule them in.  We also discussed reaching their clients during the off season (December through March) and how to build loyalty.  As we moved deeper into discussions we also found that Celebration wasn’t particularly happy with the overall performance, they wanted more usage of the site and exposure.   The Schadlers were also very emphatic on the idea of a bold new look and expressed concerns of what would become our greatest challenge on the entire project…their annual cruise schedule.

The annual schedule on Celebration’s web site is very intricate, we had to learn Celebration’s business model and how their clients interact with it.  We met several times discussing their clientele’s demographics, how the cruise schedule changed and what their clients were used to working with.  Throughout the boating season, which is April to November, Celebration hosts a wide array of cruises with themed cruises, and even multiple day cruises.  The Celebration Belle sails up and down the mighty Mississippi almost every single day of the season.  Often times there are multiple cruises each day.  We, here at QC Total Tech, had to take a deep look into how Celebration’s customers shop for cruises.  With so many factors in to selecting a cruise, we had to learn more about it.  We interviewed the Schadlers and their staff members, participated in round table discussions and ultimately narrowed the shopping methods down to two, by cruise and by time frame.  Now we know at this point we’ve got our work cut out for us, with over 30 different cruise options and cruises happening daily for seven consecutive months and proprietary software integration, this is going to take some work.

We wrote up a proposal including every last detail of the project and sent it off, they almost immediately accepted our bid and work began.

During our research phase we found the staff had some genuine frustration with updating their current web site and needed an easy way to update the cruise schedule and other information on various cruises.  At this point we have a list of requirements:

  • Bold new look
  • Usage of current logo
  • Updated copy
  • A new site navigation structure
  • The ability for the Celebration staff to self administer the web site
  • Loyalty building with existing clients
  • Increase exposure on the web
  • Proprietary billing and scheduling software integration
  • Easy to use cruise schedule

We started by constructing the web site using the world’s leading open source content management system, WordPress.   Using WordPress not only allows extraordinary flexibility, but also an extreme ease of use for the staff.  We have a lot of expertise with WordPress and are also fluent with PHP  (the programming language WordPress is written in), this allows us to customize and go beyond the out of the box limitations.  We developed a theme, utilizing colors that compliment their logo and stunning imagery that showcases the majestic beauty of the Mississippi and the views in and around the boat itself. (This new site design is shown to the right.) With so many cruise choices we felt it was necessary that each cruise theme and option have it’s own page describing it in detail with quotes from the boat’s captain, meal menus, the ability to purchase tickets online and easily see the cruise schedule.   A central color-coded cruise calendar was created, we developed a cruise schedule management system that integrates a main calendar and so-called mini calendars on each cruise page.  This central cruise system allows the Celebration staff to easily go in and update the schedule in one place and have that change reflected all throughout the web site.   Our staff worked with the developers of their cruise software and were able to integrate a web front end that was seamlessly placed throughout the web site.  During the software integration the issue of PCI compliance for credit cards arose, we worked with their IT company and the credit card processor to implement a secure processing solution for this as well.  We worked with their copy and revised it for search engine optimization and created shortcuts so the staff could change one dinner menu and update multiple cruises all from one central administrative dashboard.  Within about a month and a half, we had received everything from Celebration, created all the pages and setup social media profiles on Facebook, FourSquare and Twitter.

Every single aspect of the site was designed for ease of use and the ability to find whatever information you need within two mouse clicks or less.  Social media integration, and search engine optimization were a key part of every page design.

The staff and owners of Celebration couldn’t have been more pleased with the end result, they thought the site was stunning, easy to use and worked seamlessly with their mission critical cruise management software.  We launched the site and made a fantastic changes afterwards, the inclusion of a coupon mailing list sign up which garnered over 400 sign ups within weeks of launching.  Celebration also made the very smart decision to enroll in our social media package and had us take care of keeping their Twitter and Facebook accounts alive and connected with their audience.

Since the new Celebration Belle web site was launched their traffic has increased exponentially.  Within seven months of the launch we increased their web site traffic by 800% and 98% of their transactions were being performed by credit card.  Web site comments were up, Facebook and Twitter followers had increased and their online mailing list had over 1,500 participants.

The experience Celebration has been enjoying with us is very typical, the owner’s couldn’t be more pleased, the staff is no longer frustrated by their web site, their clients can find out everything online (reducing time with the Celebration staff) and we have a great site to show case to our prospective clients.  All in all, it is a win-win situation.

If you’re interested in experiencing this same kind of result and believe you could benefit from a powerful and visually stunning web site, then we encourage you to give us a call at (563) 823-1114.

To explore the Celebration River Cruises web site first hand, visit

Happy Webbing

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