• Home porting to bring 30k passengers to Nassau
• Cruise line adds five tour operators, seven tours
• Shore excursion ‘bubble’ when on 7-day cruise
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Bahamian food and beverage providers can win $2m in contracts to supply the 30,000-plus passengers Royal Caribbean will bring to Nassau for its six-month home port, it was revealed yesterday.
The cruise line’s executives, addressing a Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) webinar that attracted some 300 attendees, also urged tour operators and excursion providers to “think creatively about new experiences for guests” that will help make Nassau “the most sought-after destination” in the Caribbean.
Elisa Shen, Royal Caribbean’s vice-president of onboard revenue and gaming, said the cruise line had added five new Nassau-based tour operators, together with seven tours, to its 2021-2022 roster after using just 12 companies and 46 different excursions prior to this year.
While none of the local providers involved were specifically named during the presentation, Ms Shen said the cruise line’s decision to home port the Adventure of the Seas vessel in Nassau for a six-month stint beginning on June 12 provides an opportunity “to bring the economy back to where you really want it to be”.
Confirming that COVID-19 health protocols mean Royal Caribbean is “probably looking at a reduced load factor of 50 percent” for the 3,800-passenger ship, likely translating into 1,900 guests or below, she added: “Our ambition is to bring 30,000 people to Nassau with the home porting from Adventure of the Seas.”
Those 30,000 will be spread out over the weekly cruises taking place throughout those six months. Ms Shen explained that passengers arriving at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) will have their luggage immediately taken by Royal Caribbean and shipped to Nassau’s cruise port, leaving them free to choose how they will be transported to downtown.
All passengers aged 18 years-old and over must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while those falling below this threshold must produce a negative test for the virus. To add an extra layer of protection, Royal Caribbean will give each passenger a check-in or appointment time at the British Colonial Hilton between 1pm and 7pm where they must be tested again before boarding the ship.
“We will absolutely be encouraging guests, by taking their luggage at the airport, to go and see Nassau,” Ms Shen added. “They have freedom of choice once they arrive in Nassau, and the transport they take...... There’s a lot of flexibility for all these guests arriving to The Bahamas for this embarkation. We want to make sure there’s as many things for them to do in Nassau as possible.
“All businesses and opportunities are fair game for our guests when they come into for embarkation and disembarkation.” Among the spin-off economic benefits from the Nassau ‘home porting’ by Royal Caribbean is the potential for its passengers to spend several nights in the city as hotel guests both before and after their cruise.
Asserting that Royal Caribbean was “always open to new experiences and new ideas” for tours and attractions, Ms Shen nevertheless said the COVID-19 threat meant the cruise line will want to keep its passengers in a controlled “bubble”-type environment while on the week-long itineraries that include stops in Freeport and at its Perfect Day private destination on Coco Cay in the Berry Islands.
“We want to keep our guests as safe as possible, and in as controlled an environment as possible,” she said. “We want to understand where they are, who they are with and keep the community safe.” As a result, shore excursions during the week will be controlled by the cruise line.
However, Ms Shen said the cruise line’s own customer studies have revealed that COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for “off-the-beaten path” activities where passengers are not caught up in the large crowds seen as a particular threat for spreading the virus.
Besides the opportunities presented for tour, excursion and attraction providers, Royal Caribbean’s decision to relaunch its western hemisphere cruising from Nassau will also enable local food and beverage providers to bid on contracts to supply the cruise line and its guests.
Vina Jumpp, Royal Caribbean’s assistant vice-president of global hotel food and beverage procurement, identified opportunities for Bahamian producers/suppliers in the areas of seafood - particularly the likes of snapper, grouper and lobster - pineapples, bananas and fresh milk.
Pointing out that produce and other foods must be properly chilled, and never exposed to the sun, she added that Royal Caribbean requires such goods to be placed on pallets and shrink wrapped before being delivered to the cruise vessel.
“There’s huge opportunities in the beverage category,” Ms Jumpp said. “Nassau already has great rum, great soda. We have such a wide selection of beverage offerings to add local flair on our ships....
“Total local spending opportunities across all these categories is approximately $2m. I encourage you to focus on items where you have strength, and you can produce, and have the best opportunity to deliver to the vessels.”
The Bahamas’ focus on sustainable fishing was described by cruise line executives as a potential competitive advantage as it tied in with Royal Caribbean’s commitment to source produce from countries and industries that have attained the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification showing they meet best international practices in this area.
Asked about the possibility of continuing to supply Royal Caribbean even after its Nassau home porting ends, Ms Jumpp replied that the cruise line’s vessels would still be taking on provisions here once cruising resumed in full.
She added, though, that suppliers must be willing to work on weekends and holidays and respond to “emergency calls”. Pointing out that the cruise industry is not Atlantis, which can be served the following day, Ms Jumpp added: “You have one opportunity to get the product to the ship on time, and with the right quality and right temperature.”
Both she and Ms Shen said Royal Caribbean was more interested in quality, service and consistency of what was supplied than the size of the companies it did business with. “I don’t think size matters,” Ms Jumpp said. “We will not scale it to the size of the business.”
She added, though, that large wholesalers were required because of their ability to consolidate large quantities of goods and reduce the number of delivery trucks that might otherwise “overwhelm” Nassau Cruise Port.