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Cruise industry mourns visionary Barney Ebsworth

Barney Ebsworth - innovative, creative force in the experiential travel and cruise industry
Travel innovator Bernard 'Barney' Ebsworth, the founding chairman for both Royal Cruise Line and Clipper Cruise Line, and the force behind luxury tour operator INTRAV, died April 9 in Seattle. He was 83.

Ebsworth was an 'innovative, creative force in the experiential travel and cruise industry,' according to veteran senior cruise line executive David Giersdorf, founder and CEO, Global Voyages Group. 'He launched an entire industry in private jet travel around the world, and was one of the pioneers of small ship luxury cruising.'

Created air/sea packages

Diane Moore, president, Paul Gauguin Cruises, said Ebsworth had an 'incredible vision for the cruise industry, especially at a time when it was primarily ocean cruise liners, rather than the itinerary-driven cruise ships of today. He saw the future of the industry in the creation of special air and sea packages—flying guests to destinations to begin their cruise.

'Barney even built the first Royal Cruise Line ship to conform to the number of passengers on a 747 airplane,' continued Moore, who began her career at the company, rising to SVP passenger services, and whose father Richard Revnes was the founding president of Royal Cruise Line.

Around the world by jet

With INTRAV, she added, Ebsworth was the first to create around-the-world air programs.

Born in St. Louis, Ebsworth acquired and developed a small tour operation into INTRAV, a provider of luxury group travel around the globe. Programs included 29 around the world trips on Air France and British Airways Concordes.

In 1972, he founded Royal Cruise Line, a San Francisco-based line famous for its Greek hospitality and gentlemen hosts. Newbuild Golden Odyssey entered service in 1974, followed by Royal Odyssey in 1982 and Crown Odyssey in 1988. The company was acquired by Kloster Cruise Ltd., which owned Norwegian Cruise Line, and eventually its ships were merged into the NCL fleet and the Royal Cruise Line brand was shut down.

Small ship cruising with Clipper

Ebsworth started Clipper Cruise Line in St. Louis in 1981. It operated small US-flag ships Newport Clipper, Nantucket Clipper and Yorktown Clipper. The company was merged with INTRAV in late 1996 and grew in capacity and itinerary scope with the acquisition of Alla Tarasova, refurbished and renamed Clipper Adventurer, which operated far-flung expedition voyages. Ebsworth sold the operation to Germany's Kuoni in late 1999 when he retired.

Through Windsor, an investment firm he founded in 1979, various projects were financed including the Build-A-Bear Workshop, which became publicly listed. The activity has been offered on Royal Caribbean International and, more recently, Carnival Cruise Line ships.

After retiring from the travel business, Ebsworth moved to Seattle, where he expanded his acclaimed art collection, continued his arts patronage and served on numerous boards.

As a young man serving in the US Army in France, visits to the Louvre sparked his love of art. He collected works by 20th century artists Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe (who served as the witness for his second wedding) and David Hockney, among others, along with Old Masters. His Seattle area home was like a gallery, with a 10-foot bronze sculture of a bear by Tom Otterness on the lawn. The Ebsworth Collection toured to museums in St. Louis, Honolulu, Boston, the National Gallery of Art and the Seattle Art Museum.

Intellect, humor, energy and spirit of contribution

In business dealings Ebsworth was always professional, detail-focused, passionate and fair, Giersdorf said.

On a personal note, he enjoyed their interactions: 'His sparkling eyes, sharp intellect, good humor, energy, engagement in life and spirit of contribution left a lasting impression,' Giersdorf said, adding Ebsworth was 'a true gentleman' and 'a great human being.'

Survivors include his wife Rebecca, daughter Christiane and son-in-law Mark Ladd of Chicago, and two grandchildren.

Funeral services were held.