Skip to main content

Carnival Unveils a Surprise Answer to Royal Caribbean's CocoCay

Carnival Cruise has a big surprise for its fans and investors (and maybe delivers a perfect day).

You can't watch television without seeing ads for Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report. The cruise line has been one of the top travel brands on TV. Many of those ads feature images from CocoCay, the company's reimagined private island in the Bahamas.

The island has completely changed the cruise-line-owned destination game. Whereas private islands have generally been beaches that offer lunch, drinks, and maybe a gift shop, CocoCay offers multiple beaches, the largest pool in the Caribbean, and multiple food options, all for free.

If you want more than that, Royal Caribbean's private island, which can accommodate two Oasis-class ships at the same time, offers an added-fee water park and beach club. 

The company is also building a new area on CocaCay, Hideaway Beach, an adults-only section of the island that may or may not cost extra (the company has not commented on the topic).

CocoCay has given Royal Caribbean a major edge over rivals Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report and Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCLH) - Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report. Both of those companies offer more traditional Caribbean private islands -- essentially just beaches.

Royal Caribbean has an edge because CocoCay has more appeal to families and offers differentiated experiences. You can simply relax on the beach -- just like on the Carnival or Norwegian private islands -- or you can opt for the pool (still without spending any more money), or you can opt for the upgraded water park or beach club experience.

Now, Carnival has -- somewhat shockingly -- unveiled plans for its own upgraded private island experience in the Bahamas.

Carnival Cruise Line Lead JS

Carnival Is Building a New Private Island Destination

Carnival currently offers Half Moon Cay, a pretty stretch of beach where ships can't dock. That means that visitors must take a tender, a smaller ship, to ferry them from their cruise ship to the island. That's traditional, but it's not ideal for passengers with motion sickness issues. And it's more time-consuming than simply walking from the dock at CocoCay.

Adding a dock that can accommodate two ships was one of the main improvements Royal Caribbean made when it revamped CocoCay in 2018 and 2019.

Now, Carnival has opted to leave Half Moon Cay as it is and instead create a second private-island destination, in Grand Bahama. The company on May 12 held a ground-breaking ceremony, with a number of Carnival executives and Bahamian officials attending.

Scroll to Continue

TheStreet Recommends

The cruise line did not offer a lot of specifics but released the following details:

The new Carnival Grand Bahama cruise port destination, expected to open in late 2024, is being developed on the south side of the island and will continue to serve as a gateway to Grand Bahama while also offering guests a uniquely Bahamian experience with many exciting features and amenities, along with business opportunities for the residents of Grand Bahama.

That's vague, but the company did say that the new port development will include "a pier able to accommodate up to two Excel-class ships simultaneously." 

The area will also include "an area designated as a nature reserve and an interior pool feature, along with many Bahamian-operated retail, food and beverage options for guests to enjoy."

The company also offered some details to the media during the ground-breaking event.

“We’ll have a mile of beautiful Bahamian beach for people to enjoy. We’ll have a water-park area, large pools, food and beverage, places for people to just really enjoy what they imagine being on a ship and arriving in Grand Bahama,” Carnival President Christine Duffy told Bahamian news organization ZNS before the ceremony.

Carnival Tries to Answer Royal Caribbean

It's not exactly CocoCay, but Carnival has decided to build something that seems like a mix between a typical cruise port with shops and restaurants along with private-island-like features including a beach, water park, and pool.

“As we celebrate our 50-year partnership with the Bahamas, today’s ground breaking on our incredible new Grand Bahama destination represents an opportunity to collaborate with the government and people of Grand Bahama – to contribute to the local economy through job and business opportunities, meaningfully engage with local communities, and further expand our experience offerings for our guests who will have a breathtaking new port of call to enjoy,” Duffy said in a news release.

Carnival makes the move while Royal Caribbean has already begun work on a private beach club concept on Nassau's Paradise Island.

Named the Royal Beach Club, the project will offer a 26,000 square foot pool; 4,000 square foot “splash pad” for children; 14 beach bars; restrooms and cabanas; and support infrastructure. 

That infrastructure includes a reverse-osmosis plant, waste-water plant, waste-management facility, storage building, and fuel storage on two acres, Matt Hochberg of Royal Caribbean Blog, which is unaffiliated with the cruise line, reported

The new private club will also offer two 35,000-square-foot dining pavilions, each of which can accommodate 1,500 passengers.