By Chris Rotolo |
HIGHLANDS – Bayshore ferry passengers have a new luxury vessel to ride.
The Commodore is the latest addition to the Seastreak fleet and, according to the private ferry company, the ship is part of a $30 million investment that will also provide upgrades and improvements to four of its other liners.
“We’re always seeking feedback from our passengers and we often ride alongside them, so when comfort and convenience is something they bring up, we listen,” said Seastreak director of marketing Brett Chamberlain.
“When we noticed that our ridership was increasing and many of our departures were at or near capacity, we realized that we needed to bring about a vessel that was more accommodating,” said Chamberlain. “And that was the genesis for the Commodore.”
Prior to introducing the Commodore, Seastreak featured four vessels operating in the Bayshore area, including the Seastreak Highlands, Seastreak Wall Street, Seastreak New Jersey and Seastreak New York.
All four of those ferries are 141-feet in length and have a maximum capacity of 505 passengers.
In comparison, the Commodore’s interior platform is 150-feet long by 40-feet wide, with 520 interior seats and an additional 240 exterior seats located on the second and third decks, making it the largest vessel in the fleet by far.
The ferry also features seven restrooms – four modern main-deck bathrooms and three more on the second deck – as opposed to just three included on its predecessors.
However, Seastreak president Jim Barker is most excited for his passengers to experience the “Wall of Glass” on the ship’s second deck.
“What I think is the most awesome feature of this boat is the open atmosphere on the second deck,” Barker said. “Where most boats store the wheelhouse on the second deck, the Commodore is all the way open, which will allow passengers to have beautiful 360-degree views of the Bayshore, Sandy Hook and New York City, regardless of where they’re seated.”
After a four-year process – including 78 redesigns overseen by Seastreak vice president of operations Jack Bevins, and director of vessel engineering Brian Achille – those organizations have crafted the highest passenger capacity K-class high-speed catamaran in the United States and one that promises to provide service from Monmouth County to Wall Street in less than 40 minutes.
“The popularity of our service has certainly grown over time and a big reason for that is because we don’t face a lot of the mass transit challenges that passengers have with the train and buses,” Chamberlain said. “As we’ve become more efficient and our vessels have become faster and more accommodating, our ridership has increased and we needed to provide a vessel like the Commodore.”
The smooth-running ferry is accented by multiple flatscreen televisions on the first and second decks that are viewable from any seat, Wi-Fi accessibility, high-tech HVAC systems that offer climate control for individual sectors of the ship and multiple dedicated charging stations for passengers’ cell phones and electronic devices.
“It definitely feels like a more luxurious ride than I’ve had before,” Jennifer Calabrese, 34, of Lincroft said. “The panoramic view from the second deck is incredible. It really is a beautiful boat and a lot more comfortable. I think commuters are really going to love it.”
“The charging station is really exciting for me,” said Josh Stone, 26, of Holmdel, who rode aboard the Commodore Monday. “I woke up the other day and my phone batter y was close to dead. I was sure it wasn’t going to make the trip to the city and then I see the charging station. It was a lifesaver for sure.”
However, for Bevins, it’s the enhancements the passengers can’t see that are most integral to the operation.
“As much as we want our passengers to be comfortable while they enjoy a luxury ride into the city, their safety is at the top of our list of priorities,” said Bevins. “it’s the improvements they don’t see that will ensure it, like the FLIR system we’ve instituted.”
Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) is a cutting-edge navigational system that allows the vessel’s captain to read the heat signatures of nearby vessels or other obstructions in the path of the Commodore that would otherwise be undetectable at night or in inclement weather conditions.
If the FLIR system proves to be successful on the Commodore, Barker confirmed Seastreak will move to install it in the rest of their fleet.
On Wednesday, Seastreak held a ceremonial launch of the Commodore from its port in Highlands, providing friends, family and business partners a trip up Wall Street, down to East 35th St. and back to the Bayshore.
It was during this trip that Barker revealed the company is already planning to construct a second Commodore-class vessel and has already set a keel – the foundational bottom-most structure of a boat – to begin the building process.
“There were a multitude of changes made in the design of this boat before we ever started cutting metal,” Barker said. “But we knew what we wanted and we got a boat that, if we were to do it again, we wouldn’t make any changes. And now we have a great model to work off moving for ward.”
Carla Cefalo, the president of Highlands Business Partnership, Inc., sang the praises of Seastreak’s newest addition and applauded the organization for its positive presence in the community.
“When the Barker family came to Highlands to operate our ferry system, they reached out immediately and really wanted to be a community partner,” said Cefalo. “They’ve been tremendous sponsors of our programs and truly generous with their time and resources. The addition of this beautiful boat just raises the bar and I’m so happy it’s happening here in Highlands.”
Pricing for the ferry service will remain the same, according to Seastreak. A one way trip to New York City is $27, while a round trip is $46. The Commodore will likely be employed in the 6 and 8 a.m. routes leaving Highlands.
This article was first published in the May 24-31, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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