In honesty I prefer the first one, agree with the colour thing you need just a touch of a nice vibrant colour to brighten it up, but another option would be to add more pics.
There are some bits I don't like but more personal preference, but this image doesn't loads:
the click to enlarge one
I suspect that the company your dealing with isn't web wise TBH, they will find hundreds of sites like the second link and they may think thats the normal but does it give a professional image and i would have to say no.
I know someone that built a web site when the net was relatively new for a travel agents, he built a full functioning site with filters to quickly find the holiday you want etc, for its time it has well beyond the norm, but they didn't like it didn't want to understand it and asked him to create an online static brouchure, I think you have a similar situation.
Around a circle you can always draw a bigger circle.