Royal Caribbean to build community Center, hurricane shelter in Berry Islands
Fifteen years after members of Parliament before him attempted to build a community center to serve Great Harbour Cay and Bullock’s Harbour, the current member of Parliament for North Eleuthera and the Berry Islands Carlton Bowleg got the nod this week that the long-delayed dream will come true. Royal Caribbean International President & Chief Executive Officer Michael Bayley delivered the news personally. The world’s largest cruise line will build the center, equip it with a kitchen, showers an oversized generator and ensure that it is built to withstand Category 5 hurricanes so that it can also serve as a shelter for the community.
“At last, our people will have a safe place to come,” said Bowleg, who was clearly moved as he met with cruise line executives including Bayley and Vice President, Government Relations, Americas, Russell Benford in Nassau March 7.
“This project started 15 years ago and now it will really materialize. Our people will have a safe place after being tested by a lot of strong hurricanes,” said Bowleg. “Royal Caribbean has been part of the community with so many of our people working on Coco Cay and here you are, giving back. This is truly a gift coming from the people who care about the island.”
Local contractor Bradley Knowles Construction has been awarded the construction contract.
Most of the Bahamian staff who work on the cruise line’s private island destination live in the nearby communities of Great Harbour Cay and Bullock’s Harbour and make the 20- to 30-minute trip by ferry daily. Because the island is largely staffed by persons from the Berry Islands and entrepreneurs earn a living offering tours, ferry rides and other products and services to Royal Caribbean guests, the relationship between the cruise line and the Berry Islands has always been personal and strong. Staffers supported by the cruise line regularly stage and host holiday and back-to-school events.
The announcement that Royal Caribbean would undertake to fund, expand and complete the community center project came just two months before the award-winning cruise line is slated to open its transformation of that island destination, a highly-anticipated new attraction, a record-setting chill and thrill destination experience called “Perfect Day on Coco Cay”.
The $250 million investment will create a massive, vibrantly-colored water park with the United States’ tallest water slide and the Caribbean’s largest fresh water wave pool. It will feature zip lining, a variety of dining options, dancing, bars and kiddie sections with full time recreation counselors. There will also be areas of tranquility where the most energy required is dedicated to choosing whether to relax in a chaise lounge or lie on a beach towel in the sand.
“Our guests want experiences,” said Bayley. “We can provide the best accommodations, brilliant dining options and fabulous entertainment onboard but our guests select destinations because they want to experience that port of call so experiences are very important to us because they are important to our guests. We believe that what we will be offering at Perfect Day at Coco Cay will be unmatched. We are very excited about it.”
With the island’s expansion which Royal Caribbean defines as its re-imagination, Bayley said the cruise line was eager to hire hundreds of Bahamians, both for island and shipboard jobs. The cruise line has conducted numerous job fairs in recent months and hired more than 200, including some who have already qualified and shipped out for onboard positions. Royal Caribbean is working with the National Training Agency (NTA) and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation to spread the word about the intensive hiring plan. NTA is conducting soft skills training. It has also updated the Department of Labour on an ongoing basis.
Royal Caribbean is celebrating its 50th year of cruising. Its first ship, the Song of Norway, which held about 700 passengers, made its inaugural call in Nassau in 1970 and in 2018, Royal Caribbean delivered some 1.6 million passengers to The Bahamas with Nassau remaining its number one port of call out of more than 300 destinations around the world.