Ferry co. eyeing tourism growth on Narragansett Bay
'All the hotels in Newport are screaming for us to go there.'
FAST-PACED: Rhode Island Fast Ferry Owner Charles A. Donadio Jr. says the company’s new boat, the Ava Pearl, is allowing it to use the boat it is replacing, the Millennium, to expand tourism on Narragansett Bay.
PBN PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE
By Michael Souza PBN Staff Writer
Charles A. Donadio has made a living providing pleasure cruises and ferry services since 1995. He first bought the Southland, a 62-foot, flat-bottom riverboat docked in Narragansett, in Galilee, and ran tours of Point Judith Pond. He also started a high-speed ferry service to Block Island out of Galilee. He has since sold these ventures to focus on Rhode Island Fast Ferry.
On July 5, the company expanded and christened the Ava Pearl. The new ferry can accommodate 150 passengers and features five satellite televisions, a snack bar, comfortable indoor and outdoor seating and a smoother ride. The ferry it replaces, the Millennium, will be dedicated to more sightseeing cruises.
PBN: Your business is more than a ferry service, you also offer cruises. How did that growth happen?
DONADIO: It was 2008 when we started with the bay cruises. This will be our 10th year running ferry service to the Vineyard and the fifth running sightseeing cruises. The cruises include 10 lighthouses and it’s really taken off. When we started we were doing about two per week for July and August. Now, we do them twice a day, seven days a week.
PBN: Describe the clients that take the tours. Are they local?
DONADIO: The sightseers are mostly Rhode Island locals or tourists that are visiting the area. There is also a portion of people who are coming to Rhode Island to take the lighthouse cruise because they are lighthouse fanatics. They plan their vacation around this cruise. We’re bringing tourism in.
With the Vineyard ferry service, 95 percent of the people are out of state, only 5 percent from Rhode Island. We are bringing in these people from the airport, through Amtrak or by driving their car. We’ve had every state in the country in our parking lot, including Alaska.
About 75 percent of the passengers to the Vineyard stay overnight, and it ranges from two days to about one week.