The cruise line has outlined a huge investment that passengers will be very happy about -- but a major player has raised its concerns about the project.
Royal Caribbean wants to offer passengers more than just a floating resort hotel that takes them to port destinations.
Some sailings, of course, offer exactly that. When you book an Alaska or Australia cruise, you're doing so at least partly because of the ports the ship calls on.
The same might be said of the cruise line's itineraries that stop all around Europe, but it's less true in the Bahamas, where many of Royal Caribbean's (RCL) - Get Free Report ships sail.
The company's biggest Oasis-class ships can stop only in certain ports including Nassau, Cozumel, Costa Maya, and other destinations that have their charms, but may not be the reason people book a cruise.
To offset that, and give its passengers a special experience its rivals can't offer, Royal Caribbean developed its Perfect Day at CocoCay private island.
The island, which goes well beyond the traditional beach and barbecue cruise line private island experience, serves as a sort of extension of the ships that visit.
CocoCay offers multiple beaches, the largest pool in the Caribbean, and multiple included dining options. It also has an added-fee waterpark and beach club. In addition, the cruise line plans to add an adults-only area, Hideaway Beach, that will open toward the end of this year.
Now, Royal Caribbean has shared plans to build another private-island-like experience, the Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas.
But the biggest resort in that area has raised a major objection.
Atlantis Resort Questions Royal Caribbean's Plan
A top executive for the Atlantis, a massive resort complex with a waterpark, has raised some objections to Royal Caribbean becoming its Paradise Island neighbor.
Vaughn Roberts, Atlantis’s senior vice-president of government affairs and special projects, spoke to Tribune Business, a local business. making clear that the resort has reservations about the cruise line’s plan.
I think we’re obviously closely watching how it all plays out," he said. "...We would like to also see anything that’s done there be done in a very environmentally responsible way."
Roberts, whose resort has sold day passes to its water park and other experiences through Royal Caribbean, explained his company's concerns.
"So we know that there are coral reefs there, we know that there has to be other environmental habitats there. So we just want to make sure it’s all done in a responsible way. Cruise lines have reports of dumping in the ocean and stuff," he said.
The executive qualified his comments a little bit, but his intentions were clear.
"We’re not saying Royal Caribbean is guilty, but there have obviously been incidents in the past. We just haven’t seen enough of Royal Caribbean’s plans to know how they’re going to mitigate any risks,” he added.
Atlantis's concerns could be legitimate or they could be an incumbent's attempt to keep out a potential competitor.
Royal Caribbean cruise line guests can currently book passes to Atlantis' "Aquaventure" water park with a single adult ticket starting at $309 for a March sailing of Independence of the Seas.
In theory, Royal could still partner with the resort, but some passengers who might have gone to Atlantis might opt for the (presumably) much cheaper Royal Beach Club.
Royal Caribbean Has a Deal With the Bahamas in Place
Toby Smith, a Bahamian entrepreneur and Lighthouse Keeper at the Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club, also has taken issue with Royal Caribbean's plans. He says the cruise line has made a deal with the government that won't be favorable to residents of the island nation.
Royal Caribbean has stressed that it's working with the government.
"Crafted in close collaboration with the Bahamian government, the new project will feature a public-private partnership in which Bahamians will be invited to own up to 49% equity," the cruise line said in a news release.
"Local businesses and entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to manage the vast majority of the experience. Overall, the new venture will generate hundreds of jobs across its construction and long-term operation."
Concerns like the ones that might be underlying the Atlantis comments are shared by other local business leaders. Some feel that Royal Caribbean's destination will hurt local "beach break" operators and lead to fewer cruise passengers visiting Nassau's downtown (which is steps outside of the cruise terminal)
“Royal Caribbean is going to suck business out of Paradise Island," a business owner who chose to remain anonymous told the Tribune.
"The thing is nobody is going to want to stay on Paradise Island or even downtown, and Royal Caribbean is just going to take all of their guests to their side of the island. Lots of people are going to lose their jobs, too."
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