Port of PB cruise business purchased by former Norwegian Cruise CEO

The MV Grand Celebration sails from the Port of Palm Beach three to four times a week.

The MV Grand Celebration sails from the Port of Palm Beach three to four times a week.

The cruise firm that sails the Grand Celebration from the Port of Palm Beach to The Bahamas is under new ownership that includes the former president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Kevin Sheehan.

Sheehan resigned from Miami-based Norwegian in January 2015 after serving as its chief for seven years.

“The purchase of Paradise Cruise Line is a family investment with a strong executive management team. We have a great appreciation for the Port of Palm Beach and believe it is a fantastic port which will contribute to the future success of the Grand Celebration,” Sheehan said Tuesday.

In August of this year he joined Las Vegas-based Scientific Games Corp. as its new CEO and president. Scientific Games is a leading developer of technology-based products and services and associated content for worldwide gaming, lottery, and interactive markets.

The ship itself, the MV Grand Celebration is leased, but the company that owned the  business, Cruise Operator, doing business as Bahamas Paradise Cruise line, has sold the business for an undisclosed amount to a new operator, Paradise Cruise Line Operator, Ltd., incorporated in The Bahamas.  The deal closed Dec. 22.

The 1,800-passenger ship sails to The Bahamas three or four times a week, and it’s the only cruise ship at the port in Riviera Beach. It’s the largest cruise ship ever based there.

Jarra Kaczwara, the port’s senior director, business development, said the two-night cruises have been highly successful.

“It’s a tremendous value and a tremendous cruise for the money, $129,” Kaczwara said.

From October 2015 through September of this year, 482,211 passengers took the cruise. The peak month was July, with 54,036 passengers.

Port commissioners approved the operating agreement with the new company on Dec. 15.

Oneil Khosa,  managing partner and co-owner with Sheehan in the venture, said then that he and Sheehan are both cruise professionals who have spent a “considerable amount of time in this business.”

Khosa said the company plans  to enhance the cruise’s operations and add more capacity.

Kaczwara said, “There are many things they can do to expand capacity. I know they are looking at every option possible, and that could mean bringing a second vessel into their fleet.”

At 733 feet in length, the Grand Celebration is the maximum size ship the port can handle, Kaczwara said. But with the berth available while the ship is in progress, another two-night or a four-night cruise is a possibility, she said.

The port receives roughly $4 million a year in ship’s fees and passenger parking from the venture.

The Grand Celebration launched in January 2015, replacing the Bahamas Celebration, which ran aground in Freeport on Halloween weekend in 2014. The 1,250-passenger Bahamas Celebration was sold for scrap metal. It had sailed from the port to Freeport since 2010.

Since Hurricane Matthew damaged Freeport, Grand Bahama, the Grand Celebration has been diverted to Bimini, but is expected to resume sailing to Freeport again after Jan. 3, a customer service representative said.

The 750-cabin Grand Celebration has a crew of 600 and features 10 public decks, five restaurants, a casino, seven music venues, multiple lounges and an 850-seat performance center.

The ship also has five pools and whirlpool spas, a spa-beauty-fitness center, three stores and three children’s areas.

To book a cruise, go to Grandcelebration.com or bahamasparadisecruise.com  or call 800-995-3201.