Duck Boat Company Boston Super Tours Is Shutting Down
Looks like there’s only one flock of duck boats left in town.
Boston Super Tours—the company that runs Super Duck Tours and Upper Deck Trolley Tours—is going out of business after more than a decade, its owner tells Boston.
The company, a competitor of the better-known Boston Duck Tours, shuttered abruptly. The Boston Hospitality Industry blog, which first reported the closure, says its last day of operations was October 30. It hasn’t made an official announcement—its ticketing function just stopped working, and its Facebook and Twitter pages went dark.
Dennis Kraez, who owns the company and also runs Diversified Automotive in Charlestown, wouldn’t say much about why he is closing up shop. When you’re running a business, he says in a brief phone conversation, “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Super Tours has been leading visitors around the city since 2004, when it first brought its fleet of bus-like amphibious vehicles to Boston’s streets. A page on its website indicates it has at least 50 employees.
The company had been the only tourism business to compete directly with the famed Boston Duck Tours, which have been leading guided trips around Boston on land and sea in reclaimed World War II vehicles since 1994. The Super Duck vehicles were longer and more bus-like that the Boston Ducks (they designed for tourism rather than for war), and could fit more passengers. Also, the Super Ducks were certified to operate in Boston Harbor. Boston Duck takes its passengers onto the Charles.
The two duck boat companies have had a long-simmering rivalry. Boston Duck Tours owner Cindy Brown sued Kraez in 2007, alleging the name for his services was too similar to hers. A court ordered him to desist—Kraez briefly offered tours called “Super Duck Excursions”—before a judge ruled he could use the “duck tours” name again in 2008.
Years later, Kraez has only nice things to say. “Cindy Brown runs a great company and they have a great reputation,” he says.
Kraez would not say whether Super Tours’ trolley and duck boats might continue to offer tours under new ownership. Representatives for both Boston Duck Tours and another local tour company, called Old Town Trolley Tours, say they are not buying the Super Tours vehicles and don’t plan to.
It’s been a rocky period for duck boats everywhere, and the vehicles have come under new scrutiny in Massachusetts recently. State legislators are considering new regulations that would require safety improvements to the big, intimidating amphibious vehicles, which are widely despised by bicyclists in a city where more and more people bike to work. The push for new rules follows the death of a 29-year-old woman in April after a Boston Duck Tours vehicle collided with her motorized scooter near the State House. Another Boston Duck Tours crash in the Back Bay in July injured a woman at the Newbury and Clarendon streets intersection. Proposed rules include adding new mirrors and cameras to make it easier to see in blind spots. The regulations also include requiring that the crafts have both a driver and a tour guide on board. Boston Duck Tours has pledged to add a second staff member to its vehicles by next year, voluntarily. Super Tours, which hasn’t had any headline-grabbing major crashes to speak of, had already been staffing its boats with two operators.
Duck boats have also been scrutinized elsewhere. New documents emerged Monday about an investigation into a duck boat crash in Seattle that killed five people and injured dozens more, raising questions about how the vehicles were maintained. A company that operates duck boat tours in Philadelphia shuttered earlier this month, citing a spike in insurance costs of 330 percent, after a woman died in a collision with one of the ducks in 2015. Also in Philadelphia, two Hungarian students died in 2010 when a barge collided with a disabled duck boat on the Delaware River.