Carnival Corporation reinforced its dedication and commitment to Grand Bahama during an open forum with Bahamian media personnel on a four-day tour February 10-12 of its operations in Florida.
Carnival Corporation and PLC, CEO, Arnold Donald; President, Christine Duffy and Managing Directors led the visiting group through their headquarters, where the journalists not only got the opportunity to learn of the environmental protection and compliance, healthy marine preservation, operational logistics for the corporation’s 27 ships, eight operating headquarters and nine cruise brands, but most importantly an e update on the grand cruise port project.
The Carnival team stated the importance of bringing extensive opportunities to the island, as they wish to decrease unemployment and revive the tourist attractions for not just The Bahamas, but more importantly Grand Bahama.
Carnival Corporation and PLC Senior Vice President for Global Ports and Destination Development, Giora Israel explained how important it is for Grand Bahamians to envision the opportunity of their island.
“The Bahamas, as a country and especially so Grand Bahama, is blessed with having an extraordinary location. The tip of Eight Mile Rock is only 68 nautical miles from the U.S.
“Grand Bahama is an island that has probably the most potential in the whole of The Bahamas and I know all of the islands; they are all wonderful. Eleuthera is fantastic, it is narrow, long and exciting, but Grand Bahama has this gravitas called a location, critical mass of size, an extraordinary airport and runway and hopefully, new terminal. The best deep water for cargo, it is a destination that has extraordinary potential for it.
“I have been looking at Grand Bahama for a very long time. My first conversation with Edward St. George was in 1986. We worked very closely with the Hubert Ingraham (former Prime Minister) and Mr. Vanderpool Wallace, as Minister of Tourism. We always looked and looked, and we finally found this winning combination, so we are committed to it and we believe it will be an enhancement to what we do, what we sell our passengers and it will give hopefully, the boost Grand Bahama deserves,” said Israel.
He added that Carnival Corporation will present the cruise port as uniquely Bahamian.
“The idea that The Bahamas doesn’t have a uniquely Bahamian look maybe comes from ignorance or feeling there is not enough in it to make a story, but we believe there is. So, why should we not give tourists what they want? They want the sun, fun; they want to enjoy a good time with their family, but why don’t we transform them into a Bahamian experience.
“Sure, the cruise port will be manmade, but there will be a police station, there will be a replica of the Anglican Church built, there will be a Junkanoo shack, straw market. You will be eating conch salad freshly made on the spot and why not combine satisfying your wants and needs of a vacation and having your dream siting on the sun, but doing so in The Bahamas,” said Israel.
“We want to give tourists a uniquely Bahamian feel. We want to blend it all; every architecture element that you will see in the port will be a copy of The Bahamas. We will not invent any architecture statement at the cruise port, except we will create a ski lift. But that is the idea behind it, everything has to be connected to something Bahamian,” he added.
Admitting that there may be a delay due to claiming the important documents, but the company anticipates a ground breaking very soon.
“When we announce the project on February 4, 2019, we labeled it ‘The Road to 2021’ and everybody should remember that this is our inspiration. If we can get all permits and licensing … unfortunately, the fact that the Heads of Agreement took a little longer and we couldn’t submit any application until we had the HOA; however, we have done so, but we are delayed a little bit.
“We are missing a couple more permits; we are waiting for a couple of more things to be done, and we hope to be able to make it a groundbreaking ceremony,” said Israel.
He noted that the groundbreaking ceremony for is not a show. “The groundbreaking ceremony for us will be the start of construction. I have the desire to do it early summer. We want to be compliant; we want to do a thorough vetting of our project by the various governmental agencies, because we want to be proud of it and we want government to be proud every step of the way.
“It is time to get going; let’s get the government officials to complete their job and please do it as quickly as you can and let us go to work.”
As concerns surfaced regarding the cruise port, Israel assured the proposed project is a promise to Grand Bahama.
“For the people that have doubts, I would say as an intimate expert in Grand Bahama for over 40 years that indeed there were some promises made, but not always promises kept. I don’t blame government in any case nor do I blame the private developers that couldn’t get the financing or so on.
“The difference in this project is that we are today 85 percent of the cruise business,” Israel expressed. “We have a big investment there, and I am personally committed and this is not subject to financing. A lot of projects went away when there couldn’t be financing, but this is our money and we have it and we don’t want to waste it. We will check every dollar before we spend it, but we do want to make it happen.
“As for the doubters, it is okay and I understand. Some promises were made over the decades, and they were not fulfilled, but this promise will be fulfilled and it is fulfilled.
“I came two weeks after the hurricane to sign the Heads of Agreement in Freeport purposely for everyone to know we are here. We are not signing a press release; we are proud of it, we are making a world-wide statement and we are coming,” Israel declared.
Speaking to the cruise port Duffy said, “We see this cruise port as a partnership that is important and that we will be there no matter.
As said, hurricanes are not new, but obviously Hurricane Dorian was catastrophic and devastating for Grand Bahama, which for us meant even more quickly what could we do to provide support first and foremost to the people of Grand Bahama and making sure that we were able to bring supplies and food and whatever was needed that we could bring in by ship as quickly as we could get permission to come in.
“We never once questioned among ourselves that we couldn’t continue the project, because we think the project is not only important for our business and for the growth of that, but for the demand that we think we can deliver for people to experience in a completely new destination that is a part of Grand Bahama and also for the ongoing partnership and work that we see continuing in the future.”