The 51,000-grt Costa neoClassica, which Costa Cruises announced was being sold about two weeks ago, will begin sailing for Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line (BPCL) from a new home port – the Port of Palm Beach (FL) – in 2018.
Late last week, Palm Beach County (FL) commissioners voted 5-0 to approve a new 10-year multi-ship agreement with BPCL, and there are two five-year-renewal options.
Built in 1991, the ship -- which will leave the Costa fleet in March -- currently has 654 staterooms, including 428 seaview cabins and 10 suites with private balconies. Public spaces include two pools, multiple whirlpools, a casino, observation lounge, ballroom, outdoor jogging track, wellness center and gym, plus multiple restaurants and bars.
Currently, BPLC’s 1,900-passenger Grand Celebration sails from the port to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island on two-night cruises; the line also offers longer cruise-and-resort-stay packages which feature accommodations at Grand Lucayan, Wyndham Viva Fortuna or Marlin at Taino Beach.
The second ship will operate similar short, multi-day cruises.
Now headquartered in Deerfield Beach, FL, the cruise line was purchased late last year by the Sheehan family. Kevin Sheehan, Sr. is well-known to cruise selling agents as the former president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
The group has been making product updates and the new agreement with the port was handled by Kevin Sheehan, Jr., who has a Wall Street investment banking and private equity background, and Oneil Khosa, the line’s president and CEO, who also holds a minority interest in the line; Khosa was previously a CEO of an Indian cruise line and a Royal Caribbean International bridge officer.
According to a presentation by the line that port commissioners reviewed, the port’s current net income of $39.2 million could rise to $54.3 million annually, if both ships are at 60 percent occupancy, or to $62.9 million if occupancy is 70 percent.
That income would derive from food and supply purchases, hotel accommodations, pilot fees, port worker employment and local spending by crew and passengers. Seventy new jobs are expected to be created with the addition of the second ship; 115 workers currently are employed in cruise operations.
The cruise line has guaranteed the port will have a net income of $40.2 million over the next decade, up from $19.5 million with the one vessel.
The destination itself will spend $18.3 million throughout the next decade to handle the ships and cruise passengers arriving for their cruises; that include fees for water, police, security and janitorial services.
While the vote was unanimous to approve the new ship coming to the port, during the proposal review process, several local officials had asked for a delay to evaluate traffic or channel issues related to the increase in service.
But those efforts failed, and the vote went forward. Reid Hansen of the Palm Beach Harbor Pilots told the commissioners that pilots have assessed the ship and that it can operate safely from the port without any channel changes.
When the second BPCL vessel begins operating from the port it will be the first time that South Florida port has home ported two multi-day cruise ships, although the port has hosted casino day boats.
Half of the line's passengers are said to come from out of state. For those passengers driving from north Florida, Georgia or other southeastern destinations, the Port of Palm Beach is about 45 miles north of Port Everglades, FL, in Broward County, and about 70 miles north of PortMiami.