“We continue to look at cruise port projects, because there is still a lack of berths in the Caribbean. We look for the kinds of places where passengers want to go. We are not building private compounds. Carnival builds cruise vessels that deliver cruise vacations. We don’t create excursions or run stores ashore. We are landlords.”
One trend that is churning cruise line port investment is passenger satisfaction at spending a day at the beach. Cruise executives say that beach days at private islands are among their most popular port stops, so cruise lines have been pumping millions into island compounds, mostly in the Bahamas, where ships stop for a day of sunshine, barbecues, and water sports.
Norwegian, for instance, recently spent an estimated $30 million on the 250-acre Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, adding an encounter with 18 specially-trained stingrays (fee required), a new snorkel trail (fee for equipment), and an island bar sponsored by Patron, the maker of high-priced tequila. Also on Great Stirrup are new private cabanas that cost $249 a day for up to six people. Private cabanas also are a popular item at Holland America’s 2,400-acre Half Moon Cay, a Bahamian island that once was Little San Salvador, a hiding place for pirates. Cabanas often are fully rented before the cruise begins, said a Holland America spokesman.
Disney Cruise Line reports that its 1,000-acre, private Castaway Cay in the Bahamas is its top-rated port. The island is full Disney, which means that it is perfectly manicured, with separate swaths of beach for families, teens and adults, activities, and multiple visits by Disney characters.
In addition to Coco Cay in the Bahamas, Royal Caribbean operates the highly popular private beach compound in Haiti called Labadee, which offers a roller coaster and zip lining.
Labadee is one of only three port stops by Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas on their one-week Western Caribbean itineraries out of Fort Lauderdale to Cozumel, Mexico. The third stop is Falmouth, a newly developed port for Royal Caribbean. President Adam Goldstein told The Miami Herald that Royal Caribbean began to develop its port at Falmouth when the cruise line concluded that neither of the traditional Jamaica ports, Ocho Rios or Montego Bay, could accommodate Oasis and Allure, the world’s largest cruise ships.
On either of those ships, during a Western Caribbean one-week cruise, Falmouth is the only opportunity for passengers to get a look at a real Caribbean island port city. Royal Caribbean and Jamaica have built a modern port facility, with docks and some local shops. Just two blocks away is a real city where residents seem to live much as they did 10 or 20 years ago.
David Molyneaux writes monthly about cruising. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com