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Carnival, Royal Caribbean Share Private Island/Port Plans

Both cruise lines have big plans to build out expanded private islands like Royal Caribbean's CocoCay.

The biggest cruise ships have become destinations as you're essentially sailing around the ocean in a ship that's the equivalent of a major Las Vegas resort casino. That's a necessity, as once ships hit a certain size they can't dock in many ports.

And while these mega-ships have more to do than you can accomplish on a week-long sailing, passengers still want to make stops. That's a challenge as only ports like Nassau and Cozumel -- destinations many frequent cruisers often stay on the ship for -- can accommodate multiple big ships at a time.

Royal Caribbean International (RCL) , which has the largest cruise ship in the world in Wonder of the Seas, as well as many other massive ships in its Oasis class, has partially solved its port problem by making its CocoCay private island a desirable location. Before Royal Caribbean revamped CocoCay, cruise line private islands were more or less beaches with bars and a barbecue.

That changed when Royal Caribbean built "Perfect Day at CocoCay," a rethinking of the private island experience. CocoCay added a huge pool, multiple beach experiences, an added-fee waterpark, and an extra-cost high-end beach club. The revised island also has a variety of dining options and extras (that cost extra too) like zip lines, a tethered hot air balloon, and more.

The changes turned CocoCay from a "meh" stop to one that passengers booked trips for so they could experience it. That's a model Royal Caribbean intends to repeat with its upcoming "Royal Beach Club." Now, Royal Caribbean isn't the only company building out its own destinations for its ships -- Carnival has a plan to do the same.

Royal Caribbean CocoCay Beach Club 2 Lead JS

Carnival Has a Private Island-Like Port Plan

Carnival has a deal to create a private island-like cruise port in Grand Bahama. The port will include shops, a large pool, and restaurants. The cruise line plans to integrate it into the local community.

"The Grand Port project will be located at the Sharp Rock site, ensuring convenient movement between the cruise port and the main population center of Grand Bahama, which is just a few minutes away," Carnival shared. "The project will be designed and maintained to showcase the natural beauty and culture of the island. It will reinvent Grand Bahama as a destination."

Carnival shared more details on a website devoted to the project.

"Offering experiences for all tastes, from the serene relaxation of the beach to high-adrenaline water and adventure amenities, and a wide range of dining opportunities ranging from high-end cuisine to beachside snacks. The Bahamian Town Square and Festival Walkway will connect the port’s various amenities with beautifully kept grounds surrounded by local flora. This point will also serve as the location for a presentation of Junkanoo culture," the company added.

The new port will be able to host two of the cruise line's largest ships at the same time -- which could bring roughly 12,000 guests to Grand Bahama.

Royal Caribbean Has Plans for Nassau

Nassau can accommodate multiple large cruise ships. That makes it an easy destination for both Royal Caribbean and Carnival to stop in, but that convenience means that many cruise passengers have visited the island before.

That makes Nassau a less-than-special destination because many passengers had been there before (some many times). Royal Caribbean plans to change that by building a CocoCay-like "Royal Beach Club" on a 13-acre site on Paradise Island (about a 15-20 minute ride from the cruise port) that would have a variety of amenities for visitors.

Royal Caribbean has not shared details as to whether the new "club" would be an included stop or cost an extra fee (or some combination of the two). It has disclosed that the $50 million project, which was paused during the pandemic, has been moving forward.

The new private area will feature a "26,000 square foot pool; 4,000 square foot “splash pad” for children; 14 beach bars; restrooms and cabanas; and support infrastructure that includes a reverse osmosis plant, wastewater plant, waste management facility, storage building, and fuel storage all contained on two acres," the Royal Caribbean Blog reported.

In addition, the site will offer two 35,000-square-foot dining pavilions capable of accommodating 1,500 passengers each.