A new cruise line project in the works in Miami wants to be unlike anything else afloat. That means no buffets, no shuffleboard and no slot machines.
It does mean a retractable pool that will let guests plunge into the ocean — instead of chlorinated water — with a net to protect them from the surrounding sea life.
These features and others will be part of the wellness-focused aesthetic of Blue World Voyages, a startup cruise line hoping to turn traditional cruising on its head.
“We are looking to do everything different,” said founder Gene Meehan, who also headed the now-closed downtown Miami Athletic Club through 2014.
We are looking to do everything different.
Blue World Voyages founder Gene Meehan
Meehan is using his 30 years of experience in the wellness industry to conceptualize a cruise line centered on fitness, which in recent years has become a popular amenity on most ships.
His proposal: Create an immersive luxury experience, with a plethora of sport-themed activities on board, a palatial health center and spa, and wellness-focused excursions targeting travelers who enjoy an active lifestyle. On board, features will include virtual reality baseball and golf, a basketball court, and jet skis, paddle boards and kayaks available off the deck of the seawater pool. That pool deck, which comes off the side of the ship, lowers into the ocean to create a lap pool.
The line will also focus on serving sustainable, farm-to-table food sourced from the locations it visits. It has already partnered with Tim Andriola, chef-owner of Basil Park and Timo restaurants, and plans to partner with an additional South Florida chef. But healthy food doesn’t mean obsessive calorie-counting, Meehan said.
“We are not serving spa food or counting calories and serving miniscule food,” Meehan said. “We are going to be a cruise for real people.”
For now, the cruise line plans to start sailing in the Mediterranean first and eventually to Cuba, Costa Rica and parts of South America. The line could launch as soon as the third quarter of 2018, Meehan said.
While Blue World is keeping mum about what ship it’ll use, Meehan said guests can expect a 350-passenger chartered vessel. (One clue: A promotional video for the line features the 800-passenger Celestyal Nefeli.)
We are not serving spa food or counting calories and serving miniscule food. We are going to be a cruise for real people.
Blue World Voyages founder Gene Meehan
Whatever the ship, Meehan is promising an all-inclusive experience that he dubs “five-star casual.” All food, beer and wine with meals, gratuities and most excursions will be part of the package, which is about $3,400 per person for a seven-day Mediterranean itinerary. Guests will also get three signature experiences on each cruise, which could be parties on shore or an exclusive activity on the ship.
Shoreside, Blue World plans to partner with fitness-focused companies to offer active excursions such as hiking, cycling, golf, yoga, meditation and water sports.
Whether the cruise line will make it to launch is still to be seen. For now, it’s staffed by an array of former cruise executives, as well as a former acting inspector general for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Michael Carrol, and the director of hospitality for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, João Ferrer.
The significant focus that cruise lines have already put on this niche proves that it’s one that certainly has an audience, and is most likely more than just a passing trend. It will be interesting to see how Blue World taps into that audience.
Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com
Meehan said he is working on finding a CEO and staffing the line with executives from the cruise industry in permanent positions. The line will also launch a crowd-funding campaign in July as a way to fund the startup. Those who invest in the company will get the same amount of their contribution matched toward a future cruise and earn stock in the company. So far, Blue World has $15 million in investments and foresees an additional $10 million from crowd funding, Meehan said.
The line will also retrofit a deck on its ship to create 26 two-bedroom luxury suites available for sale to travelers who want a permanent residence on board.
Meehan’s bet on the popularity of wellness travel is not unfounded. He predicts about 42 million Americans fall into the category of conscious consumers who care about health and sustainability, plus about the same number in Europe and Canada. In cruising overall, almost all lines have embraced healthy living, said cruise expert Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com.
“Maintaining healthy regimens while traveling has become a way of life for so many. We’re already seeing this emphasis, in a long-term way, on cruise ships today,” Spencer Brown said. “The significant focus that cruise lines have already put on this niche proves that it’s one that certainly has an audience, and is most likely more than just a passing trend. It will be interesting to see how Blue World taps into that audience.”
[Blue Voyages focuses on] too segmented of a market and [it’s] unsustainable. Larger, established cruise lines can and do accommodate these types of passengers already.
Cruise expert Stewart Chiron
The line’s planned small-ship makeup is also in line with customer preferences for a “more low-key onboard experience,” Spencer Brown said, which has propelled the growth of smaller expedition vessels.
“What’s intriguing about Blue World Voyages’ concept is that it aims to solely serve the health-inspired travel market,” she said. “It’s not an entirely new concept, but it’s joining a market that has proven to do quite well over the years.”
It may be too soon to tell whether Blue Voyages will deliver on that promise though, said cruise expert Stewart Chiron, — and if the line can compete with larger cruise lines that are already offering a healthy menu of fitness activities.
“It’s a pipe dream at this point,” Chiron said. “[Blue Voyages focuses on] too segmented of a market and [it’s] unsustainable. Larger, established cruise lines can and do accommodate these types of passengers already.”