Golf Life: New company aims to take golfers to sea

Blue World Voyages

Golf Life: New company aims to take golfers to sea

Digital Edition

Golf Life: New company aims to take golfers to sea

For some 30 years, Gene Meehan has been operating health and wellness clubs in and around Miami. Now he wants to take that concept to sea.

Meehan’s latest venture is Blue World Voyages, a nascent cruise line that plans to carve out a niche serving people with active lifestyles. Blue World plans to place a big emphasis on golf. The company recently signed Hank Haney Golf to create onboard programs and help oversee tournaments at various ports.

In November, Blue World Voyages will begin retrofitting a nine-deck, 900-passenger vessel to accommodate 350 passengers. An entire deck will be devoted to sports. That will include two golf simulators, a putting green and pro shop, and a teaching pro from Haney’s staff. The deck also will be outfitted with batting cages, soccer simulators, studios for yoga, spinning and TRX, and other facilities. Blue World said it plans to have the largest spa deck at sea. Perhaps the most eye-catching amenity is a platform that can be lowered from the side of the ship to create a sea-water lap pool.

Despite the onboard amenities, Meehan said Blue Voyage plans to dock for longer periods than is normal in the industry, allowing guests to spend more time on land playing golf, hiking, biking and exploring various destinations.

(Blue World Voyages)

“The four-star cruise lines are getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and the ship has become the destination,” Meehan said. “They want you to come onboard and go to all their specialty-themed restaurants. When they go into ports of call, they typically own the island. So the experience is totally controlled. We’re looking to do the opposite. We’re going to be very port-intensive, and we’re absolutely going to be very sports-intensive.”

Given the focus on people who have active lifestyles, Meehan predicted that Blue Voyage’s customers won’t be typical cruise-line clients.

“I don’t know how many passengers we’re going to pull from existing cruise lines,” Meehan said. “It’s a different animal.”

Meehan said Blue World would like to have 20 to 30 golfers weekly, with the goal of playing three courses during a seven-day itinerary. Meehan envisions scheduling tournaments in various ports, then inviting the club members back to the ship for a meal.

For golfers looking for a more intensive experience, Blue World plans to schedule two golf-only sailing weeks per year. Meehan anticipates these cruises might attract as many as 160 golfers traveling to A-list golf destinations such as the British Isles and Spain and Portugal.

The ship will include 26 one- and two-bedroom residences. Fredy Dellis, a Blue World co-founder, is a former CEO of ResidenSea Ltd., which developed the concept of on-board residences.

Meehan projected that a week-long voyage would be priced at $3,400 per person. That would cover virtually all costs, with the exception of golf fees.

Cruising is the fastest-growing sector of the leisure-travel market. In 2009, according to Cruise Lines International Association, the total number of passengers was 17.8 million; this year that number will be 27.2 million.

The golf industry has been able to draft off of that growth.

PerryGolf, a major golf-tour company, has been operating golf cruises in partnership with established cruise lines for 20 years – most recently with Azamara since 2011. Gordon Dalgleish, co-founder of PerryGolf, said that cruises now account for about 20 percent of his company’s business, and that category is growing twice as fast as PerryGolf’s traditional ground-based tours.

“The golfing audience buys the better cabins and spends more onboard, so it works well for (Azamara) and for us,” Dalgleish said.

(Blue World Voyages)

Cruising appeals to a different demographic for tour operators. A typical, escorted ground tour almost always is a buddy trip – for example, four or eight men traveling across Ireland or Scotland and picking off as many trophy courses as possible. Dalgleish said that cruising, by contrast, almost exclusively appeals to couples. He is hard pressed to recall any buddy trips on cruises, though some of his clients have subsequently booked voyages with their wives.

Traditional golf-tour operators have been reporting booming sales the past two years. The only problem is that they’re running out of tee-time inventory, particularly at must-plays such as the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, and Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. Golf cruises help solve that problem.

“If you look at Scotland and St. Andrews, in particular, there’s a cap on what you can sell because there are only so many tee times,” Dalgleish said. “The nice thing with the cruise programs is that as long as we can be creative and identify new opportunities – whether it’s an Irish cruise or South America or South Africa or Asia – there’s no limit on what we can sell.” Gwk

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