The accomplishments of Richard (Dick) West were a keystone for the development of the small ship exploration cruise segment. He was co-founder and small ship visionary of Cruise West, once the largest American owned and operated cruise line, and the largest small ship cruise line in the world. Today, Dick is following his passion in charting a course for his new family owned company, building on the successes of Cruise West without the financial and operational constraints he faced at the former enterprise.
Explor Cruises & Dick West
Explor Cruises has been created to provide the wonderful small ship experiences that are available around the world from various small ship operators who provide excellent service and experiences to their guests. No one knows the small ship niche better. And by combining the small ships with complementary destination-focused land tours Explor Cruises is able to provide incredible experiences.
As the company’s visionary, Dick West satiates his wanderlust and travel passion by personally exploring each destination in order to develop a truly authentic and memorable experience for guests. He sees the small cruise ship as a means to visit and explore the destination – not as the destination itself. He sees each program as a stage production, requiring impeccable attention to detail, timing and presentation. It is an art form that is increasingly rare in today’s travel industry.
West spent most of his life in the northwest region of the United States. He began his travel career working as a bellhop at Skagway Alaska’s Klondike Inn at age 14. Every summer throughout high school and college he worked in various aspects of Alaska tourism – bellhop, front desk clerk, deckhand, tour director, tour bus driver-guide and manager. Later, after his father sold Westours to Holland America, he managed Anchorage Operations for the family’s start-up businesses, Alaska-Yukon Motorcoaches, and TravAlaska Tours. After overseeing the expansion of land operations to southeast Alaska, and the formation of Alaska Sightseeing Tours, West became vice president of Alaska Operations, based in Anchorage. In 1985, he moved to Seattle to become executive vice president where he was responsible for bringing objective management to balance his father’s entrepreneurial style. Four years later, West became president and Chief Operating Officer and was instrumental in facilitating the transition from TravAlaska Tours and Alaska Sightseeing Tours to Cruise West.
West directed the controlled, yet extraordinary, growth of Cruise West through the successive acquisition and refurbishment of small overnight cruise vessels. From owning and operating two day-boats in 1989, the company added a vessel each year during the next six years. West also developed new itineraries for his growing fleet, creating cruises to British Columbia and the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the spring and fall, and later expanding further south to develop California Wine Country, Mexico’s Sea of Cortes cruises in Baja, Costa Rica and Panama Canal, and some very unique Japan, South Pacific and world cruise programs.
West has always been active in the travel community and has served as president of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and was also a former president of Anchorage SKAL Club. He completed several terms as a director of the Alaska Visitors Association and director of the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau. In addition, West was a board member of the Alaska Natural History Association, now Alaska Geographic.
West earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pacific at Stockton, and attended graduate school at the University of Central Washington. West resides in Seattle, Washington with his wife, Leslie. Their children, who also grew up in this fascinating business, have dispersed – Zach is attending medical school at Emory in Atlanta, Lauren has a degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, and now lives and works in Helsinki, Finland, and Charlie is attending University of Redlands in Southern California.About EXPLOR Cruises