Do you predict a mini cruise in your clients’ future?
For its next themed cruise, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is sailing away with the star of TLC’s The Psychic Matchmaker and SiriusXM Stars’ Psychic Connection with Deborah Graham.
While the Deborah Graham’s Psychic Connection Cruise to Nassau set for April 17-19 marks its first psychic-themed cruise, the cruise line frequently hosts special cruises to drum up extra excitement for bookings.
“We’ve done a pirate’s cruise, which sounds a little bit tongue in cheek, but it’s actually guest speakers that talk about The Treasure Coast off the coast of Florida, where West Palm Beach is,” Francis Riley, SVP of Sales & Marketing at Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, tells Travel Courier Digital. “That’s where most of the Spanish galleons sunk and there’s even treasure that’s being found over there and we’re just in the throes of creating a new one, which will be a dedication to Blackbeard, which will be going to Nassau where he used to spend a lot of his time back in the day.”
Evidence from another themed cruise can still be found onboard the Grand Celebration.
Its ArtSea cruises feature up and coming and well-known street and graffiti artists, who transform the top deck into an open-air art gallery. Pieces by the likes of The London Police, PEZ and Slomo, are currently displayed on the ship.
“They have a big following and it’s something that’s pretty unique,” he adds. “We have a lot of these types of theme cruises that we promote, which I think gives us a point of difference.”
With the cruise line now available across all Revelex booking platforms and through TravelBrands Cruises, by Encore Cruises, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is set to make a bigger splash in the Canadian market.
Here’s what you need to know about the product:
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line operates two-night cruises that set sail daily from the port of Palm Beach, Florida to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island or Nassau, New Providence on board the Grand Celebration and Grand Classica. No stranger to the cruise industry, the company is majority-owned by the family of former Norwegian Cruise Line President and CEO Kevin Sheehan.
While the premise is around short trips, for the Canadian market, Riley suggests its unique Cruise & Stay program, which lets travellers extend their time in The Bahamas by combining the cruise with a two- or four-night resort stay prior to sailing back to Palm Beach.
“We’re probably one of the best kept secrets through Florida. Not many agents are aware that we have the program, and again being honest, would [Canadians] really come and jump on a plane for just the two-night cruise? Probably not in all honesty, but for a four- or six-night cruise and stay, I think there’s a much higher proportion of people that would come down,” he says. “It’s a higher margin of product for them to sell.”
With representation in Canada and more partners coming on board, the cruise line is hoping to grow its business with the Canadian market.
“Today, the trade business is a much bigger part of our overall sales. It’s close now to 30% of our total business, and more importantly, we’re starting to see some good traction coming out of the Canadian market,” he says. “Half of that is we appointed a GSA into Canada called Discover the World, to help us really tell our story in Canada. We’ve been really focused on building the relationship with the trade. We’ve just developed a direct connect to Revelex, so that opens up potential trade partners in North America, and we’ve started training with TravelBrands, obviously one of the biggest operators in Canada, so again that’s a great endorsement for our product and we’re super excited about that relationship. We think that will open up another opportunity with them as a wholesaler because they work with such a vast majority of the Canadian travel agent community.”
As for why agents should get on board, Riley says Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line pays a base commission of 15% to all agents and there aren’t any non-commissionable fares or products (NCF).
“Apart from the taxes and fees and port charges, they’d get full commission on the ticket price, and that applies to Cruise & Stay as well so that program now gives the agents a price point that is much more attractive because they’re earning commission on the whole package, not just the cruise and all their commission earnings are 15% as opposed to maybe 10% on other cruise lines and with no NCF built into that, I think it’s a very attractive proposition for the agents in Canada.”
There is also a dedicated agent portal, www.bookparadise.com, where agents can register, log in, make bookings and access resources and information.
“It also provides them with learning tools and webinars,” he adds. “And things like ship visits, luncheons on board, we try to do as many fam trips as we can, so again an opportunity for agents to come and experience our product. We also have a dedicated global trade desk that is a dedicated part of our reservations centre that deals with nothing other than travel agents or wholesalers.”
Back to the Cruise & stay program – how does it work?
Customers board the ship in Palm Beach and overnight on the ship towards their destination of choice: Grand Bahama Island or Nassau.
“Then they’d disembark the ship and spend two or four nights in one of the resort hotels we have contracted with and then when they’ve had their resort stay, they’d get back on the ship,” he says. “We’ve created this four-night Cruise & Stay program where people can get off and enjoy the destination. For agents, this became really important because it’s more of the message that we were working with agents on, getting through to that level of distribution that all of a sudden now there’s a unique cruise and stay program that combines a cruise with a resort stay that I think resonates very well with the Canadian agents and the North American agents.”
Participating hotels in Nassau include Atlantis Paradise Island, Meliá Nassau Beach, SLS Baha Mar and Comfort Suites Paradise Island. Participating hotels on Grand Bahama include Grand Lucayan At Lighthouse Pointe, Taino Beach Resort & Clubs, Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach and Pelican Bay Hotel.
Beyond the Cruise & stay program, another way to increase bookings is by adding the product onto Florida packages and itineraries for snowbirds.
“I think from an agent’s perspective, selling a two-night cruise as an ancillary product to a Florida-based vacation is another great opportunity. People are coming into Florida and a two-night cruise is a great way of combining that destination with The Bahamas,” he says. “We’re starting to see growth in our two-night product coming out of the Orlando area… people who may be coming down and spending two weeks, they’ve typically picked up a car, and we’re only literally less than a two-hour drive from Orlando to jump on a ship for two days. Because we have a ship going every day of the week it means it’s a very flexible vacation option for the Canadians.”
For clients, the price point can also be attractive, with cruises ranging from US$129 p.p., up to US$229 p.p. for a two-night cruise.
“If you went to Orlando and tried to do a family pass to Disney or Universal, it’s probably around the same price point, with none of the benefits and perks that you get with our products, a proper cruise ship, it has proper restaurants, a smoke-free casino, it’s a ship that has dining options, it has kids’ clubs, and of course you have the accommodation,” he says.
And for snowbirds, he says they tend to want to combine their Florida escape with the Cruise & stay program.
Referring to the Grand Celebration and the Grand Classica as “legacy ships,” it’s important to note that they aren’t as modern as some of the ships coming online today, but for the price point and the time spent on board, there is a lot of value.
“They’re not necessarily the brand new ships you see today, but they’re roughly about the same size, the Grand Celebration has about 750 cabins, if you’re talking about that lower berth scenario you’re talking about 1,500 people, and the Grand Classica has about 100 less, 658 cabins,” he says. “But both ships, it doesn’t necessarily have the modern waterslide and everything else that you might find on a modern ship, but for a two-night product, our customers are not necessarily looking for that because they tend to overnight to the destination, and then an overnight coming back. What they are looking for is quality cuisine, kids’ clubs, entertainment, theatre shows, comedians, bands, and then there are various bars and entertainment, spas. You have the full cruise experience, we’ve just condensed it into a two-day operation.”
In addition to multiple dining options (as well as specialty restaurants at an additional charge), the ships come complete with pools, hot tubs, entertainment, games like ping pong tables and corn hole, a teen’s zone, and more. Alcohol packages are also available.
Having spent 15 years at Norwegian Cruise Line, Riley says one of the things that surprised him when he joined the company was the number of younger guests that come onboard.
“We are getting a lot of millennials that are looking for something different to do on the weekend,” he says. “The Friday, Saturday and Thursday departures are normally very busy when weekenders are looking to go away. They skew slightly more to the millennial age group on the weekend, those people who are looking for more of a destination led cruise, going to The Bahamas, having an experience, an experiential type product.”
During the mid-week, it becomes more of a short break program, and then there is the potential for an older clientele since they have more time, he says. In the summertime, they’re very family-friendly and run promotions to entice families to book.
“The buzz word now seems to be these micro vacations and it definitely seems to be growing in popularity. And we’re very much seen as a part of that,” he says. “The perception is sometimes that this is a gambling ship or a weekend booze cruise, but it’s a proper, very nice cruise product that has everything you’d expect to find on the traditional cruise ships that you see today.”
Roughly 1/3 of its customers are new to cruise and as the only operator from the Port of Palm Beach, he says it’s a nice way to transition into cruising.
“I think in Canada that’s a great opportunity for them to start bouncing on a cruise product that hits the value proposition,” he says. “It’s a two-night product, so it’s really kind of niche to us. And you lay that up against what the offer of a two-night cruise provides, I think the value proposition there clearly speaks for itself. We operate two-night cruises in low season, for the same price that you may get on one night on a Miami beach with room-only, and we’re obviously so much more inclusive with meals being included on board, etc.”
As mentioned previously, TravelBrands recently partnered with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, with its products now available to book through TravelBrands Cruises, by Encore Cruises.
“Bahamas Paradise is a great partner whose products add such value to our offerings,” says Nathalie Tanious, COO, TravelBrands. “They are the only cruise line that offers Cruise & Stay. Clients can choose from either Nassau or Grand Bahama Island and stay for two, four or six nights.”
Agents who book a qualifying Bahamas Paradise cruise product through TravelBrands will be entered to win a free cruise for two. The booking must be completed before Feb. 29 so act quickly.