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Bahamas leaders turn out for Calypso Cove cruise port on Long Island

Prime Minister Philip Davis told Long Islanders to ready themselves for the opportunities to come, saying: 'You have the project here now for whatever you wish to do'
Bahamian leaders and independent developer Azul Destinations ceremonially broke ground today for Calypso Cove, a new cruise port on Long Island.

This wasn't the start of construction but an official vote of confidence for Calypso Cove, a Bahamas-themed destination with a lagoon, water park, beaches, over-water cabanas, nature trails, entertainment, heritage and conservation elements, dining, bars, retail, a boutique hotel and activities galore.

A finger pier would handle two post-Panamax ships over 1,000 feet in length and up to 13,000 cruisers per day. It is envisioned as a high-usage port, with forecasts for 750,000 to 1m cruisers annually.

Bipartisan support

Bahamas Prime Minister Philip 'Brave' Davis, Deputy Prime Minister/Tourism Minister Chester Cooper and other cabinet ministers and lawmakers from the opposition party including Adrian Gibson, MP for Long Island, and community leaders were on hand for the ceremony, which drew 300 people and followed a heads of agreement inked with Azul Destinations in October.

No public money is going into the project. Azul Destinations said it continues talks with international entities about financing for the estimated $200m port.


More than 300 people attended the event

'This is getting everything started and getting everybody excited about it,' said Carlos Torres de Navarra, a cruise operations veteran who's one of Azul Destinations' principals. He added that conversations with cruise lines have been positive and 'The level of support from the Brave Davis administration and the community support have been overwhelming.'

Davis told attendees his government is committed to ensuring that all the Bahamas' islands are exposed in a way that their uniqueness becomes an attraction for investment and development.

'It takes confidence between the potential developer, the government and the people and community in which that development is to happen ... That’s what I call the common good. Cooperation between the investor, the government and you the people of Long Island — particularly you in the south — will ensure that this project becomes successful.'

He added Long Islanders should ready themselves for the opportunities to come, saying: 'You have the project here now for whatever you wish to do.'

More than $1b in cruise port infrastructure countrywide

Tourism Minister Cooper said well more than $1b in cruise port infrastructure is going into the Bahamas when considering Calypso Cove, Nassau Cruise Port, Ocean Cay MSC Marine ReserveDisney Cruise Line's Lighthouse Point, expansion at Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay and Carnival Corp. & plc's new port on Grand Bahama Island and expansion at Half Moon Cay.


Calypso Cove's Black Pearl Lagoon, a marquee attraction reimagined from an existing 63-acre salt water lagoon

Calypso Cove is not a private island but a destination that will be open to all cruise lines, with attractions catering to a broad demographic. 'I can see a family from Europe enjoying the destination at the same time as a family from Ohio,' Torres de Navarra said, adding that it ticks all the boxes with shore excursions, food and beverage, retail, a large beach and more.

Multi-brand, sustainable and Bahamian

The project has three pillars: a multi-brand approach with the ability to serve different demographics on the same day, sustainability for the environment and the community and an authentic Bahamian experience across the architecture, entertainment, artwork, food and retail.

A number of engineering studies have been completed and the environmental impact assessment (EIA) has commenced and is estimated to take approximately six months. Geotechnical work is under way for the EIA and the RFP for dredgers and other developers. Torres de Navarra said he sees 'no show-stopper' for a project that has bipartisan support.

Also present today were Azul Destinations partners Sherif Assal, founder of American Guard Services, a leading security services provider to the cruise industry, and Thomas Dean, a prominent Bahamian attorney who's from Long Island.


Beautiful beaches stretching over a mile

Assal, who owns property on North Elizabeth Island in the Exumas to the northwest and who acquired Greenwich Creek Lodge in the middle of Long Island so serve as a 'home base' during the Calypso Cove development, is a Bahamas enthusiast. Of Long Island, where the new port would go on the southern tip, he said: 'It's gorgeous. The beaches are beautiful,' stretching over a mile, and the water is 'blue and warm.'

On the sustainability front, Assal said Azul Destinations is looking at solar power and hydrokinetic technologies that produce energy from ocean waves.

'We are using the natural landscape,' Torres de Navarra added. For example, the 63-acre salt-water lagoon is an existing feature that will be reimagined into a marquee attraction with tropical gardens and waterfall plunge pools, a snorkel reef, kayaking and over-water cabanas.

The Azul developers estimate 250 to 350 full-time jobs once Calypso Cove is completed.


Long Island, indicated by red arrow, in relation to Bahamas cruise ports including cruise line private islands

Its location, in close sailing proximity from Florida homeports, Nassau, Freeport and cruise line private islands, would help lines diversify their itineraries and control their fuel costs, Assal said.

Long wait for investment

For his part, Dean — who was born on Long Island — said residents had been waiting decades for investment, and that's why lawmakers from both parties are supporting Calypso Cove. Not since the 1970s when the Diamond Crystal Salt Plant came in has there been any sizable enterprise. It brought jobs but after the plant and a subsequent shrimp farm closed, the population in the southern part of Long Island dwindled from 3,000 to 120 now, according to Dean.

An attorney who left Long Island for education and a career, Dean said he hopes to return someday. He's represented numerous development projects in the Bahamas but said 'The difference is that with Carlos Torres de Navarra and Sherif Assal, I get their true feeling for the community.

'I'm absolutely confident this will be a true Bahamian project,' he added.