Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

It's a pretty good time to be an entrepreneur in the cruise business.

That thought occurred to me as I had lunch with Oneil Khosa, CEO of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line.

We were sitting in the elegant Yellow Elder dining room on the line's second ship, the Grand Classica. Khosa and his partners had acquired the ship last year from Costa Cruises, where it once sailed as the Costa Classica.

In my view, the ship is as stylish as a 25-year-old vessel gets, with a uniquely European design that is largely gone from Costa's newest ships. Bahamas Paradise, and its passengers, are lucky to have a ship like that.

The Grand Classica is sailing every other day between the Port of Palm Beach and Freeport on a route that no one else is doing.

But Khosa isn't the only cruise CEO to find quality used tonnage for use in a niche market.

Later this month, Azamara Club Cruises will debut the Azamara Pursuit, its first new ship in a decade. Well, the ship is new to Azamara. It was actually built in 2001 and has been sailing for P&O Cruises as the Adonia.

The Pursuit fits Azamara well because its design is identical to its other two ships. All three were originally built for Renaissance Cruises.

Although not technically an entrepreneur, Azamara president Larry Pimentel runs the line in an entrepreneurial way, carving out a niche in destination cruising and keeping an eagle eye on both costs and new opportunities to tout his 'Stay Longer. Experience More' marketing mantra.

Another line that will be acquiring a classic ship is Phoenix Reisen, which could be considered the Azamara of the German-speaking market. The Bonn-based line next year will gain the venerable Prinsendam from Holland America Line.

The 30-year-old ship has reached retirement age for HAL. But it remains more than serviceable. Built originally as the Royal Viking Sun, it will join the Albatros, (cq) one of Phoenix Reisen's other ships that was also built for Royal Viking Line as the Royal Viking Sea.

And then there's the cruise line in organization called Blue World Voyages. The Miami-based line is pursuing a niche as a sports, fitness and wellness cruise. It plans to acquire a 900-passenger ship currently on charter to another cruise line, and reduce its capacity to 350 guests, while carving out an entire deck for sports activities.

Management can't disclose the name of the ship because it is under charter to someone else. But it says in an online presentation that if that arrangement doesn't work out, there are other ships of similar size it could acquire.

All of these niche operators are gaining traction with an audience that isn't being fully served by the biggest names in cruising. And they're benefiting from the cast-offs that those lines are making available to get new product before the cruising public.

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