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Bookings rise as Ocean Star Pacific refurb progresses

Bookings rise as Ocean Star Pacific refurb progresses
The extensive refurbishment of Ocean Star Pacific (ex Aquamarine) continues in Curaçao, where the ship is gaining upgrades and new facilities prior to entering service in April for Mexico start-up Ocean Star Cruises.

‘We’ve invested a lot of money. It’s more than just a cosmetic thing,’ Ocean Star director general Henry Yaniz told Seatrade Insider. Though he would not give the amount, he said the work entails a multimillion-dollar investment.

He added that the market response has been ‘unbelievable.’ In launching last month, the company has blanketed Mexico City and Guadalajara with promotions on television, radio, billboards and in magazines.

The spring sailings are nearly sold out, but people are also booking for Christmas and New Year departures. Yaniz said eight people were added to the call center last week and eight more are in training. Reservations are being taken seven days a week.

The big surprise is group business. The company projected 20% to 25% of bookings eventually would come from groups but that is being well exceeded, mainly by corporate business.

Yaniz cited pent-up demand by Mexican companies scheduling sea-going meetings and conventions for the same reasons that individuals are booking: no hassles with visas, foreign currency, flights and other issues.

‘It’s way over the top, way over what we anticipated,’ he said.

Ocean Star Cruises is targeting mainstream Mexicans who otherwise would book a hotel or resort vacation. Customers seek an international-standard ship, according to Yaniz.

The work on Ocean Star Pacific includes gutting and completely rebuilding the reception area, building a new destination casino, putting a food court into the previous casino space and installing a new retail area to be operated by a major retail group. There will be a new photo gallery for the Transocean photography concession. The new spa will be operated by South Africa’s Spas at Sea.

The Irish pub is being upgraded and a new nightclub with terrace is being built aft on Lido Deck, the principal entertainment deck. The Lido buffet is being rebuilt, and the pool area completely redone. A South Beach-style lounge area with a bar, grill and lounge-type seating is being built on the Sun Deck. A new, larger children’s space is being added. The dining room is gaining fresh upholstery.

River Co. of Finland and JPG Hellas of Piraeus are acting as contractors. As earlier reported, Athens-based AMK Architects & Designers are handling the design work. The project is being supervised by Ocean Star’s Ada Duff.

Work began in Curaçaco on Jan. 10 and will wrap up in late March, Yaniz said. The ship was built in 1971 as Nordic Prince and most recently sailed for Louis Cruises.

[Yaniz is among the speakers at a Cruise Shipping Miami conference session on Mexico.]