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Grand opening for St. Maarten's Rockland Estate eco-park

Representatives from Carnival Corp., Carnival Cruise Line and Rockland Estate atop Sentry Hill, with its 360-degree vistas
Carnival Corp. & plc celebrated the grand opening of Rainforest Adventures' Rockland Estate eco-park attraction in St. Maarten.

A ceremony was attended by government officials including Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin and Gov. Dr. Eugene Holiday, as well as Rainforest Adventures president Josef Preschel and key Carnival Corp. officials led by David Candib, VP development and operations for the global port and destination development group.

Chairlift, tube ride, spectacular views

With financing from Carnival Corp. and built by Rainforest Adventures, Rockland Estate offers thrills including the world’s steepest zip line, a mountain chair lift with breathtaking views and a heart-racing tube ride. A museum showcases the rich history and culture of St. Maarten and its people.

Passengers from eight Carnival Corp. brands with itineraries that visit the island have the opportunity to experience the new attraction—which is open to all visitors and residents—as a shore excursion.

'We are proud to be part of the Rockland Estate development, and we are excited that this new attraction will surely become a bucket-list item for visitors to the island, whether they’re looking to take in incredible views, experience one-of-a-kind rides or gain perspective on the rich history and culture of the island,' Candib said.

'We are so proud to have had a soft opening in November 2017 supporting the island’s [hurricane] recovery,' Preschel said. 'Today we celebrate our grand opening, part of the rejuvenated tourism sector having created what we believe is a destination-defining attraction.'

Environmental conservation

According to Preschel, one of Rainforest Adventures' goals was environmental conservation; less than 5% of the historic Emilio Wilson Estate was impacted by the park's construction. Other goals are to educate visitors about the importance of conservation and highlight local history and culture, while also providing thrilling rides and relaxing activities.

Shaydar Edelmann, general manager of Rockland Estate, announced the formation of the nonprofit Rockland Estate Foundation, to be funded by foreign visitation to the park to administer reforestation, agricultural, historical, educational and maintenance programs.

'St. Maarten continues to be one of the Caribbean’s most popular vacation destinations, and providing new offerings is key in attracting interest in our beautiful and friendly island from both new and returning tourists,' said Cornelius de Weever, acting minister of tourism, economic affairs, transportation and telecommunications.

Located a short ride from the Port St. Maarten's Philipsburg cruise terminal, Rockland Estate eco-park features Soualiga Sky Explorer, 68 four-passenger chairs that whisk riders to a transfer station for zip line and tubing rides, then continue to the top of one of the island's highest points at 1,125 feet where they can take in spectacular views.

The Sentry Hill Zip Line traverses a 1,600-foot, four-span line that provides vistas of the mountain ridge. The Schooner Ride at the midway point of the Soualiga Sky Explorer gives the chance to surf down the mountain in 40-inch inner tubes across a 657-foot track of heart-pounding curves mixed with fast straightaways.

Atop Sentry Hill are walkways and platforms that give 360-degree vistas including views of neighboring Saba, St. Barts, St. Eustatius and Anguilla.

World's steepest zip line

The Flying Dutchman is the main attraction and the world’s steepest zip line. It drops riders 1,050 feet, from the top of Sentry Hill down the mountain over a 2,800-foot span.

Emilio Wilson Museum, built as a plantation home in the 1700s, tells the story of Trace Wilson, who was born into slavery on the property, and her direct descendant, St. Maarten pioneer and preservationist Emilio Wilson. It also highlights the customs, traditions, lifestyle and stories that have earned St. Maarten the moniker 'The Friendly Island.'

Some 1.66m cruisers visited St. Maarten in 2016, and cruise tourism plays an important role in the country’s economy, representing one-third of its GDP.

Earlier, Carnival Corp. partnered with Rainforest Adventures to develop Rainforest Adventures Jamaica at Mystic Mountain in Ochos Rios and to design and build the Magical Flying Beach Chair at Carnival's Mahogany Bay Cruise Center in Roatán.

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