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Only 20 percent leave cruise ship

Govt undertaking upgrade to Festival Place to lure more into Nassau
Guardian Business Reporter

Published: Oct 17, 2013

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With only 20 percent of cruise passengers coming to The Bahamas leaving the ship, plans are underway to renovate Festival Place, seeking to increase its capacity at least “five times” in an effort to encourage more passengers to explore Nassau.

Janet Johnson, director of maritime tourism at the Ministry of Tourism, said the low rate at which passengers disembark cruise ships is something that continues to challenge the country.  Regionally, there is a 30 percent average disembarkation rate at cruise ports, added Johnson.

However, the tourism official is confident that modernizing the facilities at Festival Place will go a long away in attracting more cruise ship passengers.  In the next two weeks, all businesses and services that currently reside in that building will be moved outside the facility.

“I think that presents a wonderful opportunity.  We have a beautiful scenic backdrop here at the port.  We have prepared some really beautiful, colorful cabanas for the storefronts that will be on the waterfront,” Johnson told Guardian Business yesterday.

“We are also going to start a festival on Saturdays that will be from 10 in the morning and 10 at night, taking in Pompey Square as well in hopes that the ships will stay in port longer and entice some of the passengers off the ships that wouldn’t normally come off.”

Johnson estimates that the renovation of the building could take anywhere from six to nine months to complete.

“This was done in the early 90s and it’s 2013 now so we need to have something more modern, well-lit and ventilated, so we are going to be making some changes to the building,” she said.

“That building is going to be completely renovated.  We’ve already started that work.  We have a number of cabanas out on the piers and the roof of the cabanas are being repaired, as well as the landscaping on the piers.  We are replacing the entire roof of this building.”

She also confirmed that pier 16 has been fully restored and is operational. Now the port can accommodate up to seven ships.  Johnson believes these modifications along with the ministry’s aggressive marketing plans will result in “quite an uptick” in cruise passengers by 2016.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) cruise ship Breakaway will make its inaugural voyage to The Bahamas today, undertaking a winter itinerary in the country.  In February 2014, the Getaway, the Breakaway’s sister ship, will have a year-round Miami/Nassau itinerary.  Two more ships, the Escape and Bliss in NCL’s fleet, which will be delivered in 2015 and 2017, are also expected to add The Bahamas to its itinerary.

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