Bahamas day cruise operator Discovery Cruise Line is ceasing service for good in September citing high operating costs and an inability to raise rates in the ailing economy.
The last day of operations for the line's' Discovery Sun ship will be Sept. 6, spokeswoman Roberta Backus said Wednesday.
Discovery Cruise offers day cruises, cruise and stay packages and a ferry service between Fort Lauderdale and Grand Bahama Island.
The cruise operator has been a fixture at Port Everglades since 1987 and was the first to use Terminal 4, port spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy said. "It's been a very good customer."
Discovery Cruise reported revenues of $1.7 million to the port in fiscal year 2010, which ran from Oct.1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2010, Kennedy said.
While it's a small percentage in comparison to the port's total cruise revenue of $45.7 million, it's still a significant amount, Kennedy said.
"We'd hate to lose that, especially in this economy."
In fiscal 2011, Port Everglades was forecasting Discovery Cruise to carry 331,000 passengers, down from 360,000 in the year-ago period, Kennedy said.
"There's been a huge shift from day cruises to more multi-day cruises," she said.
This shift could be partially attributed to the popularity of gaming options now offered by tribal resorts such as the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Kennedy said.
The Fort Lauderdale-Grand Bahama service has been popular with Bahamians on shopping trips to South Florida and in its heyday with locals seeking a quick vacation or gambling getaway.
Kennedy said the port had not received official word from Discovery that it was permanently ceasing service, but was aware of its earlier plan to put its ship in dry dock later this year.
Signs that Discovery Cruise had been navigating rough waters have been evident.
Last month, the cruise line announced that unlimited alcoholic beverages were no longer part of its $79.99 one-day cruise deal.
In May, Discovery Cruise said it would suspend service on Sept. 7 for an "indeterminate period" to accommodate an extensive dry dock and refurbishment.
Shortly after that announcement at least one website — shipseller.net — had a listing of the Discovery Sun for sale, complete with photos and vessel specifications.
Backus acknowledged Wednesday that the ship was currently for sale and that a valid contract is in the works.
When asked about the new owners' plans for the vessel, Backus said:
"We don't really know what their intention is at the moment, but should know by Sept. 1."
Backus said Discovery Cruise is expecting a strong August and will be taking bookings through the Labor Day weekend.
Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel