Cruise & Stay packages on Grand Bahama Island are a key differentiator yet more awareness is needed, according to Oneil Khosa, CEO of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. Currently about 30% to 35% of customers choose this option but with the second ship, that's expected to grow to a target of around 50% on a year-round basis. The Grand Bahama Island properties offer varied experiences, from all-inclusive to hotel only. Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour was recently added for more discerning travelers.
Brightline to West Palm Beach
The latest partnership is with Brightline, South Florida's new intercity express train service. Through Oct. 31, travelers sailing on Grand Classica can receive 25% off Smart Service and depart from the downtown MiamiCentral or Fort Lauderdale stations, avoiding the traffic and hassles of driving to the Port of Palm Beach. Once they arrive at the downtown West Palm Beach Brightline Station, the ship is just a short rideshare away via Lyft. First time Lyft users can redeem $5 off their first two rides at www.lyft.com/invite/GOBRIGHTLINE.
The Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line team includes cruise veterans like Richard Coombs, VP of information technology, who's brought high-speed Internet service and shipwide Wi-Fi to passengers and crew (it's free for crew).
New digital marketing, guest experience hires
Khosa recently recruited some non-cruise specialists such as digital marketing expert Fred Greene, director of marketing, who's looking at more and different ways of promoting the line.
And Club Med veteran Lionel Pirotte, director of guest experience, has come up with new ideas like enabling people to bring their bicycles aboard to ride along a designated Grand Bahama Island path. In the cruise terminal, he's speeded up check-in. And Pirotte is working on digitizing comment cards so the line can get feedback sooner and be more responsive to guests' needs while they're on board.
Most customers come from within 200 to 300 miles and drive to the Port of Palm Beach. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line draws a wide demographic, from singles and couples on weekend getaways to weekday travelers who are typically cruising as part of a longer tour. Khosa called the two-night Bahamas cruise or the four- and six- night Cruise & Stay packages 'the perfect add-on to a major vacation.'
From July to August, families with children dominate, while baby boomers are more prevalent from September to February. Solo travelers pay no single supplement, on any sailing.
Service and value
First-time cruisers comprise a big chunk of the business. Most are pleasantly surprised, Khosa said.
'Even though we are a two-night, short cruise, there is tremendous value in our product, as reflected in our guest satisfaction scores. [People] are very pleased by the service and our food. We get a lot of good feedback.'
The ease of embarkation, both at the Port of Palm Beach and Freeport, is appreciated. 'At Freeport, you can be on board in 10 minutes,' Khosa said, while at Palm Beach, 'it's very seamless' thanks to valet parking and check-in expedited by hand-held devices.
The service and value draw people back. One couple from Boynton Beach will soon embark on their 200th cruise.
More European business
Khosa described a good relationship with travel partners in Palm Beach and international tour operators from around the world. Most international customers are from Latin American but more and more are from Europe, particularly Scandinavia and Western Europe. They visit Florida, go to Walt Disney World and Miami and 'check the box with a two-night cruise to the Bahamas,' as he put it.
Pre- and post-sail eco-discovery tours are available to Palm Beach wildlife centers like Manatee Lagoon and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, devoted to sea turtle rehabilitation, with opportunities to kayak, paddleboard or snorkel.