Bahamas cruise capacity to swell with Nassau revamp, new Disney, Royal Caribbean and Carnival destinations


Richard Tribou | (TNS) Orlando Sentinel The Bahamas have lined up the capacity to take in thousands of more cruise passengers in the coming years with the planned development of private destinations for Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean as well as a soon-to-open overhaul of the port of Nassau. The latest cruise line approval came last month as the government gave the OK for Royal Caribbean to develop a 17-acre portion of Paradise Island in Nassau, already the busiest cruise port destination in the world. Called The Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island, it will be on the western edge of the strip of land that runs alongside the waterway through which ships bring more than 3.5 million passengers a year. Plans are for it to open in 2025. The new venture will offer private cabanas, pools, beach access and Bahamian-styled barbecue with local music and artists on site. The project is a public-private partnership under which Bahamians are invited to own up to 49% of the beach club’s equity, the cruise line stated in a press release. The plan is for locals to manage the experiences offered at the resort. The cruise line will own 13 acres of the property while 4 acres go to Crown Land, which is territorial area owned by the state. The cruise line will also pay a new tourism levy in exchange for the development. “The Bahamas has been a phenomenal partner since the very start when they became our first port of call more than 50 years ago,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. Renderings of the $300 million redevelopment of the Nassau, Bahamas cruise port set for a grand opening in May 2023. (Nassau Cruise Port) The additional attraction to the port augments a $300 million overhaul of the Nassau Cruise Port slated for grand opening ceremonies in late May. Already the port has expanded its capacity to six ships including the ability to have three of the massive Oasis-class ships from Royal Caribbean alongside at once. On Feb. 27, the port set a one-day record of 28,554 passengers. “The expanded berths are certainly delivering on the sizable investment that we have made in them, creating the additional capacity required to achieve this extraordinary new record today.” said Port CEO Mike Maura Jr. The revamp includes a new terminal building, Junkanoo museum, 3,500-person amphitheater, living coral exhibit plus more entertainment, food, beverage and retail space. Once complete, the port’s capacity will jump to more than 33,000 passengers per day. It has been around 20,000 a day. “So far so good. We are open for business with record-setting numbers and we are back to 2019 levels,” said Bahamas Deputy Prime Minister I. Chester Cooper in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel last fall. The port’s passenger totals had fallen off coming out of the COVID pandemic, but the revamp is expected to see the port hit 4 million by the end of 2023 and 4.5 million in 2024. “We encourage the cruise lines to go into the port of Freeport and port of Nassau in addition to their private islands so their guests can really see and feel the true spirit of the Bahamas,” Cooper said. “The private islands are nice but you experience really the warmth of the people when you go to Nassau or Freeport.” The port in Nassau, Bahamas set a single-day record on Feb. 27, 2023 welcoming 28,554 passengers with six ships in port: Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of The Seas and Harmony of the Seas, Carnival’s Mardi Gras, Celebrity Reflection and Beyond and MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia. (Nassau Cruise Port) The country is peppered with private destinations including Disney’s Castaway Cay, Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at Coco Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Great Stirrup Cay, MSC Cruises’ relatively new Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve and Carnival Corp.’s Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays that’s mostly dedicated to its Princess Cruises and Holland America Line ships. But coming up with opening dates in 2024 are new private destinations for both Disney Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line. North of the family area at Lighthouse Point will be an adult-exclusive beach — a glorious stretch of sun-drenched serenity complete with a dedicated dining area for convenient access to food and drinks throughout the day, plus six private cabanas available by reservation. (Disney) Disney’s Lighthouse Point on the southern tip of the island of Eleuthera is slated to welcome its first visitors in summer with the majority of initial visits coming from Disney Magic sailing out of Fort Lauderdale at the line’s new terminal at Port Everglades, although a couple of Port Canaveral sailings are on tap as well with fall 2024 itineraries not yet released. The 700-acre site was purchased by Disney in 2019 after the line passed over another location because of environmental impact concerns. The Bahamas’ approval of Disney’s development of Lighthouse Point wasn’t without its own rounds of environmental criticism, but the line has vowed several forms of mitigation including donating at least 190 acres, including the southernmost tip of the purchased land back to the Bahamas to become a national park. “The environmental requirements won’t be compromised. We’re very firm on that,” Cooper said adding that Disney worked with local government and businesses to sell them on the site’s preservation and heritage. “The locals believe that as a result of their engagement, Disney is creating a better product, more community involvement, etc. So it’s a win-win-win.” That site includes a main beach, family beach and adults-only beach plus an arts and cultural pavilion, water play area with two slides, gaming pavilion, market-style dining, shopping and kids club. The proposed “Grand Port” project for a private destination on Grand Bahama Island for Carnival Cruise Line. (Carnival Cruise Line) Also with a potential 2024 opening date is the Carnival Cruise Line project under construction on Grand Bahama Island. Construction began after a two-year delay in 2022. The yet-to-be named private destination is on the south shore of that island and will be the first dedicated space for Carnival. “It’s more undeveloped. There weren’t the historic national sites there … so that has helped Carnival to be able to get going faster,” Cooper said. “We’ve been able to get Carnival up and running very quickly with its groundbreaking.” When originally proposed, it was referred to as the “Grand Port” project, and a website at was launched, although it has not been updated since February 2020. It does identify the area to be developed as the Sharp Rock site, about 18 miles from the island’s capital of Freeport, which is where cruise lines dock when visiting Grand Bahama. The 369-acre, $200 million development has had projected open dates of late 2024. although the line has not updated that timeline since 2022. It will feature a pier able to accommodate two of the line’s largest class of ships including Carnival’s Mardi Gras that sails from Port Canaveral and sister ship Carnival Celebration out of Miami. Visitors to the beachfront destination will be able to explore Grand Bahama via shore excursions from a dedicated dock or travel by vehicle from the ground transportation hub. Carnival is developing part of the land but keeping part of the property as a nature reserve. The site will also have an interior pool feature as well as the standard Bahamian-operated retail, food and beverage options on site. While it won’t be generally open to the Bahamian public, it will offer up to 1,000 jobs for locals. “We’re very excited what we’re seeing for tourism and for development throughout the Bahamas,” Cooper said. ©2023 Orlando Sentinel. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Bahamas cruise capacity to swell with Nassau revamp, new Disney, Royal Caribbean and Carnival destinations

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