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New cruise ship sets sail to Bahamas out of Port of Palm Beach

Palm Beach County leaders on Friday heralded the arrival of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s newest ship at the Port of Palm Beach, saying that the addition would be a boon for both businesses in Riviera Beach and the local tourism industry.

The Grand Classica, a 1,680-passenger ship, docked at the port in Riviera Beach just after 9 a.m., ending a week-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean that included a brief stop in Grand Bahama Island. The Grand Classica joins its sister ship, the Grand Celebration, and marks the second vessel in Bahama Paradise Cruise Line’s fleet.

Together, the two ships will offer daily cruises from the port to Freeport, Bahamas. Each ship is expected to carry as many as 250,000 a year, pumping $75 million into the county’s economy.

Photos: Grand Classica cruise ship arrives in Port of Palm Beach

The port has projected it will receive $54.3 million to $62.9 million from the two ships over the next 10 years. It marks the first time the port has hosted two multiday cruise ships, although there have been casino ships that operated day cruises.

“By adding this ship we are doubling our capacity,” said Oneil Khosa, the cruise line’s chief executive officer. “It is going to really churn up a lot of economic activity in our neighborhood, in our town and in our county. Our target is to carry around 500,000 passengers every year, which is a huge number.”

Khosa said about 10 to 15 percent of the cruise line’s passengers are international tourists.

The ships is also expected to draw a large number of visitors living within driving distance of the port — a critical market for the county’s tourism industry.

During the busy winter tourist season, Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing group, focuses its efforts on tourists from cities such as Boston, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Those “fly markets” are among the county’s most important tourism generators because of the large number of flights to Palm Beach International Airport.

But as the weather warms in the summer and early fall, tourism officials shift their focus to tourists who live within driving distance of the county.

In 2017, more than 2 million tourists visited the county from other cities in the state, including Orlando, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, Jacksonville and the Treasure Coast.

Discover officials said Friday they are working with the cruise line in hopes of creating “stay-and-play” type packages that would encourage passengers to spend a day or two in Palm Beach County either before or after their voyage.

Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters said the new ship would also help boost business in the city, as visitors come and go from the port. He pointed to nearby attractions, including the Ocean Mall and Rapids Water Park, saying they could also be a draw for out-of-town visitors.

“We are looking forward to great things coming out of the port with this ship,” Masters said. “We will have thousands of tourists visiting our city.”

Eleanor Peleyger, a Broward County-based travel agent who was part of a group of industry experts aboard the ship on Friday, said the lower-priced, two-night cruises make them an affordable alternative for in-state tourists.

The cruise line is also offering a buy-one, get-one free booking offer.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good time,” Peleyger said. “It is an all-in-one vacation and it is not costing them an arm and a leg.”

The Classica underwent a major refurbishment in 2014. In October 2017, it went into dry dock while its systems and infrastructure were improved and additional improvements were made.

The Classica features 658 staterooms and 10 passenger decks. It offers eight dining options, live entertainment in its theater and regal room, a casino, a lounge, spa, fitness center and salon, two pools and more.

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