Richard Tribou | Orlando Sentinel
Disney Cruise Line ships will have a second private Bahamas destination on their itineraries starting in 2024 after years of delays from COVID-19, hurricanes and environmental impact concerns.
The cruise line said Lighthouse Point at the southern end of Eleuthera will begin welcoming guests in summer next year. It will join Castaway Cay, which the line has operated since 1998, as a dedicated port of call for Disney.
The destination, though, will attempt to embrace Bahamian culture while juggling environmental stewardship vs. the influx of thousands of visitors.
“Lighthouse Point is a place of extraordinary natural beauty, so our goal has always been to create designs that accentuate its qualities in an organic way,” said Kevin Thomas with Walt Disney Imagineering. “We’re focused on low-density, sustainable development that protects and preserves the environment, allowing the site’s biodiversity to shine.”
Previous statements from Disney Cruise Line have said the plan for Lighthouse Point would see similar traffic as Castaway Cay, between three and five weekly visits from cruise ships year-round.
The line’s desire to run a second private destination for its Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries coincides with an expanding fleet that saw the debut of new class of ship Disney Wish out of Port Canaveral last summer and will see three more ships before the end of 2025.
Critics were concerned when word came Disney was interested in the development of the privately owned 700-acre site at southern end of the island, but with approval of the government of the Bahamas in 2019, the company moved forward with the purchase and has since been able to move forward after the completion of an environmental impact assessment.
Part of the agreement between Disney and the Bahamas was that at least 190 acres, including the southernmost tip of the purchased land, would be donated back to the government to become a national park.
“Disney is a developer that we hold at a gold standard. They are very environmentally conscious,” said Bahamas Deputy Prime Minister I. Chester Cooper in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel last fall. “They’re going way above and beyond to do it the right way. … A large portion of their development is dedicated to environmentally sustainable and heritage tourism. This is something that we welcome.”
The plan calls for developing only 16% of the 700 acres, the use of elevated walkways to reduce the impact on the landscape and a pier design that was able to avoid dredging. Plans call for at least 90% of the power for the site to come from solar energy.
Disney hosted open town halls during the process while several environmental groups were vocal in their opposition.
“We want to build a product that’s sustainable for the long-term,” Cooper said of the approval process. “We have a streamlined process for approvals, a democratic environment where people are free to protest, which you saw in Disney’s case in Eleuthera, but in the final analysis, we have a great product, sustainable product, environmentally friendly.”
He said the dialogue with locals led to making sure Disney embraced the culture and opened up economic opportunity while following a plan that wouldn’t damage the ecosystem.
The look of the new destination hopes to tap into the culture of the Bahamas in the same manner as Disney’s Aulani resort tries to represent Hawaii.
Design teams have been working with local artists and advisors going on five years to bring what the vision is to pass, although tropical weather and the COVID-19 pandemic slowed development since 2020.
The cruise line this week revealed new renderings and details for some of the features coming including an architectural design with curved buildings that seek to mirror scattered Bahamian shells along the shoreline.
Details in the construction, though, will embrace native flora and fauna while the spectacle of historical and carnival-like Junkanoo parades with make its presence known. Disney promises the site to feature “playful folklore characters that will evoke the warmth and charm of the local culture.”
Options onshore for visitors will include a standard main family area with beach access on the east side of the property, an adults-only section just north of that with six private cabanas and its own dining area, and a second family beach area on the southwest shore with 20 premium family cabanas including four double cabanas for larger groups.
The central hub also will feature market-style dining; a Bahamian art and culture pavilion with local artists on hand; a family water play area with two slides, water drums, fountains and dedicated space for toddlers; and a club for children age 3-12 that has its own splash pad themed to “The Little Mermaid” and dedicated dining area.
Recreation options on the site include a covered gaming pavilion, volleyball court, gaga ball pit, watercraft and bike rentals as well as nature trails for hiking and biking.
The line is working with local tour operators as well for a lineup to explore beyond the resort.
Details about the site can be found at lighthousepointbahamas.com.
©2023 Orlando Sentinel. Visit orlandosentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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