Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Anything for tourism

by Lisa Seiser

October 20, 2011

Apparently, Bill Gage, president of Lake Geneva Cruise Line, will do anything to make a customer happy.

That includes jumping into the 61-degree Geneva Lake water in his boxer shorts and retrieving a pair of prescription glasses from the bottom of the lake.

It was last Tuesday. As about 15 journalists returned from lunch at the Abbey to the Fontana Municipal Pier to head onto the 1898 Polaris for a tour of the south shore, one of the reporters was on the pier and somehow dropped her prescription glasses into the water.

The group was part of the press tour organized by Geiger and Associates, a public relations firm working with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to bring more people to the state’s top areas.

According to Lake Geneva Area Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing and public relations director Grace Eckland, the reporter, Regina Cole, a freelance travel journalist contributing to the Boston Globe, Log Home Living, Old House Interiors, Country’s Best Cabins and more, was almost hysterical about the loss of her glasses.

Gage said he was waiting on the boat, when he saw about 20 people standing on the pier gathered around looking into the water.

“I was wondering what they were doing,” Gage said.

Eckland said they were about 40 or 50 feet away from shore and Cole said she could see the glasses at the bottom of the lake. Gage said the glasses were in about 10 feet of water and the people were trying to figure out how to get the glasses, possibly using a fishing net.

Gage knew that wouldn’t work.

“It was instinctive for me to do something,” Gage said.

According to Eckland, Gage, who was going to join the group on their tour back to Lake Geneva, took off in a run and headed into the stores along Fontana’s lakefront, including Gordy’s, looking for goggles.

Gage said he found a towel at Fontana Marine and found 20-year-old goggles swim goggles thanks to help from Gordy’s.

Meanwhile, Eckland said she was telling Cole, they would get her glasses.

Gage returns with goggles, heads to the bathroom and comes out in his boxer shorts, Eckland said.

He dives into the water, Eckland said. He disappeared for a moment and he reappears holding the red-rimmed glasses in his right hand.

“Everyone’s cheering,” Eckland said. “She (Cole) said ‘This is amazing, I’ve never seen anyone do this for tourism.’ He became an instant hero.”

Gage, who called the water refreshing, said he was the only person in a position to remedy the problem.

“I was just trying to take care of somebody,” he said. “If it was my mother’s glasses, I would hope someone would do the same for her. She was happy and that is all that mattered.”

“That just shows the customer service and it speaks volumes,” Wisconsin Department of Tourism public relations coordinator Lisa Marshall said. “For Lake Geneva, people know their travel experience here will be reflective of that.”