Royal Caribbean Group’s Vice President of Governmental Relations for the Americas Russell Benford revealed on Saturday that the company has obtained a Crown land lease for land on the western end of Paradise Island, as well as a seabed lease for its Royal Beach Club project.
Benford confirmed the existence of the leases during a press conference that followed a ceremony to commemorate Royal Caribbean’s first ship – and the first ship ever – to home port in The Bahamas.
“As you know, we at Royal Caribbean were working on the Paradise Island project for several years now. We’re very happy to announce we have received both a lease for Crown land as well as the seabed for the first Royal Caribbean beach club project in the world that will be right here in Nassau, Bahamas,” Benford said.
Royal Caribbean’s Crown land lease has been a contentious topic, as the acreage sought by the cruise line reportedly encroaches on Crown land that owner of Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club Co. Ltd. Toby Smith said he was promised by the government. Smith has taken the government to court over the plot of land, though the government seems to have moved forward in granting Royal Caribbean its Crown land.
Both entities’ site maps show that the Crown land granted overlaps.
Smith wants five acres of the land, which includes a small, sandy portion and rocky portion of the already tiny Colonial Beach; and Royal Caribbean asked for a non-negotiable seven acres.
Benford said early last month that those seven acres of beach front are critical for Royal Caribbean’s beach club and the cruise line is not willing to scale back the project.
Smith released a press statement on Friday saying Royal Caribbean’s President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bayley extended an olive branch last month, after which a meeting was scheduled. He said he met with cruise line executives and asked them to respect the Crown land boundaries he said he has already been granted by the government. He explained that Royal Caribbean executives revealed their signed Crown land lease to him as a good faith measure, which thereby ended negotiations between both parties.
“Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club is therefore deeply dismayed that during these discussions, RCI (Royal Caribbean International) shared a recent turn of events that the government of The Bahamas has furnished them with a signed Crown land lease and certainly quells the appetite of PILH (Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club) to continue any talks,” Smith said.
“The government of The Bahamas is abundantly aware that PILH has taken legal action against them in the Supreme Court of The Bahamas to have its Crown land lease agreement honored and as such should not be negotiating the land in question and yet, they have offered a whole lease to RCI, which exactly contains land in dispute.
“Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is also aware that Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club has filed suit against the government of The Bahamas and yet, continues to negotiate with the government of The Bahamas for the land contained within the dispute.”
Benford maintained on Saturday that Royal Caribbean is willing to work with Smith and any others with competing interests.
“It’s important for us as a company to work with all the stakeholders that are both on Paradise Island and here on Nassau,” said Benford.
“So, every single person that has an interest in what happens on Paradise Island, what happens in Downtown Nassau, we’re going to try to work with everybody to come up with the best development, the best product that we possibly can.”
Royal Caribbean’s proposed Royal Beach Club could inject $26 million per annum into the economy and will be able to accommodate 3,500 guests.
Smith has plans for a low-density project that is expected to cost $2 million and includes the preservation of the lighthouse at the tip of Paradise Island.
Royal Caribbean has already spent $50 million on 13 acres of land on Paradise Island for the Royal Beach Club.