Tour the Rock, Skip the Ferry

By Traci Grant
|  Monday, Feb 1, 2010  |  Updated 5:15 PM PDT
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With the onset of the Gold rush in 1849, the U.S. Government began exploring the idea that the island could serve as a military fortification. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

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Rather than donning a jacket and hopping the ferry to take the trek to Alcatraz, why not tour it in your sweatpants from your couch?

That’s the question Mark Dewey of Geoki, an Austin, Texas-based software company, is asking.

Dewey has created a brand new app for the old prison tour and he says it’s so comprehensive you don't even have to leave your house.

"Alcatraz has this unobtainable mystique," Dewey said. "People are around the world are excited about Alcatraz. They like coming out here. The visitor experience is so strong."

Dewey insists the visitor experience is just as strong with the iPhone application which can give you a multi-media, self guided tour around both the cell house and the island where as the official national park service tour of the historic prison sticks only the the cell house.

Dewey said the app can also link you to movies and videos documenting the island’s history for just $1.99. According to Dewey, the real live tour which costs $26, doesn’t really compare on its own.

"I went out there myself and thought, this is a lot of fun," Dewey said. "It's an interesting place. There's a lot of info but more could be done on the iPhone to bring it all together and make the experience more interesting."

Dewey said some of his buyers are using it in advance of their trip and some are using it instead of the trip.

Apple user Trish Kelly, of Fort Lauderdale and her daughter, of Tallhassee, Florida, were headed for the ferry bound for Alcatraz this week.

She says she’d experience the chill of the wind and power of the waves as the boat navigates its way to the island and the touch the damp, cold walls of the prison cells with her own hands. Kelly says after the trip she wouldn’t mind following up with the application.

When asked if she needed to be there in person to truly understand Alcatraz, Kelly giggled and responded, "Oh, absolutely. APP-solutely."

If that’s how you feel, then his app can complement the real tour, plus it can save you money, said Dewey. The cost of the headsets is already included in the ticket. But Dewey suggests using his app's audio tour instead and then you can demand eight bucks back from the tour company.

"This is inevitable," Dewey said. "The days of just being confined to this official tour, these days are over because of the iPhone and other mobile devices and consumers are free to choose."
   
Daniel Ishofsky’s parents are visiting from New York. They said they didn't mind paying full price.

"You're talking about local habitats and money going towards preservation and taking money away from that is taking money away from the efforts to keep these places going,” said Ishofsky.

He joking paraphrased something his father piped into the conversation.

"My dad was saying maybe if I had an iPhone, maybe they wouldn’t have had to come visit me and we cold come up with an app for that," Ishofsky said.

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