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Cruise lines are doubling down on private destinations and spending up to $250 million buying Caribbean islands as exclusive locations for their customers.
Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney cruises are expanding their private beaches to help travelers avoid crowds and access an intimate resort experience.
Industry experts told the Wall Street Journal that major cruise lines have already spent tens of millions of dollars to secure the private properties.
‘Having these company-owned destinations gives us a little more control,’ says Chris Chiames, chief communications officer for Carnival Cruise Line said to WSJ.
Despite recent backlash, analysts claim that private islands that are closed to the general public attract customers and persuade them to book trips.
Cruise lines are doubling down on private destinations and spending up to $250 million buying private Caribbean islands as exclusive locations for their customers. The Royal Beach Club (pictured) at Paradise Island will offer cruise guests a new option for visiting Nassau, Bahamas
Disney, owns Castaway Cay, and recently purchased Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, which is set to open June 2024
This comes as cruise companies faced recent backlash for overrunning classic holiday destinations with with an overwhelming amount of tourists
It’s additionally enticing as cruise lines compete over space and amenities at busy ports – such as Nassau in the Bahamas or Cozumel, Mexico.
Norwegian Cruise Line is credited with sparking the private-island idea and leading the way for other cruise lines after purchasing a Bahamian isle in the late 1970s, referred to now as Great Stirrup Cay.
Royal Caribbean spent $250 million at CocoCay in the Bahamas, according to WSJ, capturing the attention of competitors.
Others have since followed suit – purchasing land across the Bahamas and Caribbean. Carnival Cruise line owns Celebration Key, a section of Grand Bahama.
Disney, owns Castaway Cay, and recently purchased Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, which is set to open June 2024.
Royal Caribbean owns Royal Beach Club, and plans to open an expansion on CocoCay next year, called Hideaway Beach.
This comes as cruise companies face backlash for overrunning classic holiday destinations with an overwhelming amount of tourists.
Every year, about 4.8 million people join a cruise. The number pre-pandemic was even higher, reaching around 30 million passengers.
Earlier this month, citizens of a tiny Cornish town in the UK blasted the arrival of a massive cruise ship that increased the local population by 50 per cent during its visit.
While some admired the 58,000-ton Spirit of Adventure, many weren’t pleased to see the 775ft ship dock at the Fowey Harbour in early September.
Residents said on social media the ship’s visit was ‘awful’ and ‘shouldn’t be allowed’. Some said the fumes had affected air quality in the coastal town.
These are not the only locals who have openly condemned the arrival or cruise ships to their local towns.
In Portofino, Italy, hordes of selfie-obsessed tourists from huge cruise ships are accused of ruining La Dolce Vita in the Italian Riviera’s most exquisite gem.
This tiny paradise is Italy at its best. But, as the Mail discovered on a visit in August, the morning’s tranquility is fleeting.
Others followed suit since then – purchasing land across the Bahamas and Caribbean. Carnival Cruise line owns Celebration Key, a section of Grand Bahama
Norwegian Cruise Line arguably launched the private-island idea, leading the way for other cruise lines when it purchased a Bahamian isle in the late 1970s, referred to now as Great Stirrup Cay
Pictured: A satellite image of a docked cruise ship in Castaway Cay, Bahamas, a private island exclusive port. Collected on September 25, 2012
MSC Cruises own Ocean Kay, a private island marine reserve in The Bahamas
Pictured: A Busy Portofino on a day with two cruise ships with up to 3,000 passengers descending on the tiny, picturesque town of Portofino
Locals complained to Dailymail.com in August that the cruise ship tourists crowd the small pathways and don’t spend any money in the shops
On the horizon sat two colossal cruise ships, black smoke billowing from their funnels.
Together, they carry more than 4,000 passengers from the US, Britain and several European countries.
Thanks to a local law allowing ships to anchor close to the protected bay, swarms of visitors can hop on tenders from the mothership to reach Portofino in just minutes.
Several times a week, tourists descend off packed ferries from the neighboring coastal towns of Rapallo and Santa Margherita.
But the visitors do not just arrive by sea. By 10am, the main public car park had already reached its 250-vehicle capacity.
Motorists were being turned away as buses from Genoa, 22 miles away, brought their own crowds.
Cruise ships, ferries and day-trippers: by 11am, this tiny village was under siege. Hundreds of tourists were approaching from every direction.
Portofino now finds itself caught in a battle between those wanting to protect its charm and those who argue that anyone has a right to visit it whenever they choose.
As the throngs arrive, the residents are forced to retreat from the mayhem, while luxury holidaymakers withdraw to their yachts and five-star hotels.
An American couple told Dailymail.com they are confined to the premises, unable to leave because of the volume of tourists.
Certain destinations are taking proactive steps to ban cruise ships from their city.
The Spirit of Adventure weighs about 60,000 tons
By 10am, the main public car park has already reached its 250-vehicle capacity. Motorists are being turned away as buses from Genoa, 22 miles away, bring their own crowds
The ship’s lounge. Polruan Coastwatch station manage Ray Wrigg said the vessel’s size was impressive and even hid most of the houses behind it
Many are not pleased about the massive ship docking at Fowey Harbour. ‘Awful. Shouldn’t be allowed,’ said author Sasha Swire on X (formerly Twitter)
The massive cruise ship Spirit of Adventure looked out of place in the tiny town as it towered over St Fimbarrus (right), Fowey’s parish church, and Place House’s grade I listed tower (left)
Then there is the logistical pressure of so many tender boats, with about ten arriving and leaving each hour
Several mornings a week, the cruise-ship hordes descend on the town – just as other tourists are alighting from packed ferries from the neighboring coastal towns
Amsterdam, for instance, has taken a major step in protecting its air quality by banning cruise ships from its city center, the BBC reported.
This comes after City Councilor Ilana Rooderkerk complained cruise ships have led to masses of visitors descending like a ‘plague of locusts.’
More than 100 cruise ships each year mount at Amsterdam’s central cruise terminal, according to the BBC report.
In 2021, Venice banned large cruise ships from anchoring in the historic city center, according to Euro News.
The city cited damage to the lagoon which nearly put the city on UNESCO’s endangered list before the ship ban.
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, also recently promised to limit the amount of cruise passengers allowed in the city if she is re-elected in May.
The policy would restrict the number of tourists which reach up to 200,000 a month during peak seasons.
‘Forty per cent of the cruise ships stop for four hours. They don’t give the city economic return, and thousands of people disembark, create great mobility issues and then leave. It is an industry we have to limit,’ she told The Times in February.
The mayor of Marseille also called out the cruise industry, claiming it is ‘suffocating’ the city with air pollution, according to the outlet. Santorini and Dubrovnik have also tightened their restrictions with cruise companies.