And, in another cruise industry first, he's going to use crowdfunding to enable travelers to become equity partners in the line (with additional perks). Plus, there's a residential component.
'It’s time for a cruise line, and a ship, that responds to the preferences of active, wellness-minded individuals, or of those looking to move in that direction,' said Gene Meehan, founder and ceo, Blue World Voyages. He envisions a paradigm shift, from buffets, bingo and floating hotels to sports, fitness and good health.
A number of lines offer health and wellness activities, including excursions, to satisfy this growing trend. One key difference with Blue World is that everyone on board, regardless of age, would be like-minded, Meehan said—already active and health-conscious, or heading that way.
'Our attention to sports/wellness and our focus on health are not options or add-ons. They are the core of the overall cruise travel experiences we offer, embedded in the design of the ship, the on-board programs, dining options, even the itineraries,' Meehan said. 'The philosophy extends to our staff and crew, who we envision participating in cross-training and adventures ashore.'
Meehan, a competitive rower, climber and golfer, is a seasoned fitness professional whose company owned and operated The Downtown Athletic Club, a prominent Miami fixture, among other ventures. For Blue World Voyages, he's assembled a leadership team with cruise experience and is interviewing for the president/ceo role.
The company aims to launch in May 2018 with Mediterranean cruises aboard a premium ship built for 1,000 passengers that would be extensively reconfigured to carry just 350 passengers in all-suite accommodations at a five-star level. Twenty-six residential condominiums are planned. Buyers will get shares in the company and would be able to put their suite into a rental pool.
Ultimately, Meehan envisions a fleet of three, 350-passenger ships that roam the world, with the company evaluating ports of call based on the criteria of cultural and learning opportunities, the availability of outdoor activities such as cycling, hiking, golf and watersports, plus access to areas conducive to yoga and meditation. Miami-Cuba routes, as well as Costa Rica and South America, are under consideration.
Beyond a typical cruise ship fitness center, Blue World plans a comprehensive sports center, with indoor basketball court, batting cages, golf simulators and lap pool. Expert-led conditioning programs plus TRX, yoga, spinning and more, an ample spa and a sports medicine clinic are in the plans.
The shipboard ambiance will be casual, the food healthy and locally sourced. There will be a dozen Bali beds for sleeping outdoors, with butler-served breakfast.
'It will be a five-star product on a casual ship. We're all about sports and wellness,' Meehan said.
In addition to a development team that he leads as founder and chairman, Meehan has a core executive team including cfo Hal Gassenheimer, a former Carnival Cruise Line and Seabourn executive; vp wellness Diane Trieste, who had a long association with Canyon Ranch as the manager of various properties; and executive chef Tim Andriola, a rising star who owns Timó in Miami. Cruise veteran Tomas Tillberg and well-known Miami designer Juan Poggi will work on the ship's interiors.
Outside magazine is a strategic partner, and talks are under way with Trek Cycles. The company also seeks a strategic golf sponsor.
Meehan said Blue World has invested $400,000 to date in seed capital and has commitments for $15m from traditional investment channels, including two wealthy cruise industry families. He's looking for additional venture capital funding to provide a bridge for the suite sales concept.
And, totally novel in the cruise sector, the company will seek to raise an additional $10m via crowdfunding.
'Crowdfunding provides an excellent platform for connecting with potential customers, and the process gives proof of concept,' Meehan said. 'We are creating a community of like-minded travelers ... and we'd like our passengers to be our partners.'
The company targets 2,000 initial investors for its Founders Club. Tiered investment levels range from $500 to $5,000. Investors are slated to receive a dollar for dollar discount on their first cruise based on the amount of their investment. They also receive shares in the company, additional discounts for on-board purchases, a Founders Club welcome event on each cruise and upgrades when available.
Blue World Voyages is partnering with Start Engine, one of the world’s largest crowdfunding platforms, with the kick-off date for the first round of the campaign targeted for mid-June.
The company's advisory board includes Fredy Dellis, who was in the development team for residential ship The World and the company's first ceo (he's also a cyclist), and long-time corporate cruise specialist/ship charterer Joyce Landry, a competitive rower, and the co-founder of Landry & Kling Global Cruise Events.