Carnival Cruise Line signed a final agreement to build a cruise destination on Grand Bahama Island that it said will eventually host 1 million cruise passengers a year.
The long-anticipated agreement with the government of the Bahamas will give Carnival a major new destination for a dozen or more Carnival ships that homeport in Florida and various cities on the East Coast of the U.S.
Carnival will finance and operate the as-yet-unnamed destination on a secluded beach area on the eastern end of the island. Grand Bahamas’ major city is Freeport.
Other Carnival Corp. brands such as Princess Cruises and Holland America Line have long had private islands in the Bahamas, as have competitors such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. MSC Cruises is building one near Bimini that is expected to open in 2018.
Carnival did not give a timetable for the completion of its project.
It said the new resort will be “the largest purpose-built cruise facility ever constructed in the Bahamas.” Features will include a 1-mile stretch of beach; food, beverage and shopping outlets; a wide array of water-based amenities; and other recreational facilities. The port will feature a pier capable of accommodating two of Carnival’s largest ships simultaneously.
Carnival did not put a specific price tag on the development but said it would be a “multimillion-dollar project” that will provide significant economic and employment benefits for the Bahamas.
MSC has said it plans to spend about $200 million to develop its Bimini destination.
At a signing ceremony, Carnival Corp. president and CEO Arnold Donald said, “When Ted Arison, the founder of Carnival and the modern-day cruise industry, embarked on his first cruise, it was to the Bahamas. From that day until now, the Bahamas continues to be one of the most strategic and important destinations for our company.”
Some Bahamians have expressed concerns that the new destination is remote from Freeport and won’t provide many jobs or opportunities for vendors.
Bahamian prime minister Perry Christie said the Carnival shore attraction “will create a new destination with a distinctive flavor and characteristics that offer the broadest Bahamian entrepreneurial and employment opportunities, representing another phase in the development of Grand Bahama as a viable tourist center.”
The project is subject to a detailed public discussion process, environmental studies and permitting.