Calypso Cove would be a Bahamas-themed destination with an action-packed lagoon as its focal point, a 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.
An investment of more than $200m is envisioned.
'We want to build a destination with culture, music and art in the port, so when people get off the ship, they immediately know they're in the Bahamas,' said Carlos Torres de Navarra, a cruise operations veteran who's one of Azul Destinations' principals.
'We want to build on the beauty of Long Island in a sustainable way that not only leverages what it has to offer now but creating new opportunities for Bahamians,' he continued. 'We believe Long Island's potential for broad offerings will be overwhelmingly received by cruise and land-based tourists alike with the waters, beaches and nature that define Long Island as the platform for all to enjoy.'
Adding itinerary variety/flexibility
Calypso Cove would add a new cruise destination in close proximity to Florida homeports, spicing up short itineraries and open to all cruise lines.
It could help differentiate four-day cruises from three-day cruises by varying destination content, just as Grand Turk in the nearby Turks and Caicos does. For five-day cruises that currently have two ports, this could add a third stop in the Bahamas, saving on fuel from going further afield.
The 90-mile Long Island has no big hotels or major airport. Calypso Cove would go up on the southern tip, where Azul Destinations has secured rights to more than 500 acres from a private landowner.
1m cruisers a year
It is envisioned as a high-usage port, with 'conservative' forecasts for 750,000 to 1m cruisers annually.
This is the type of 'anchor' project that's been missing in Long Island and 'hopefully will spur additional investment in the Bahamas, especially public-private partnerships,' Torres de Navarra said.
He also expects Calypso Cove to generate incremental tourism business for the Bahamas and complement, not compete with, Nassau and Freeport as cruise destinations.
'As a new port, it will be exciting and create demand,' Torres de Navarra said. 'Our project will further cement deployments to the Bahamas. We believe it will bring a large number of incremental cruise guests to the Bahamas that do not exist today.'
Calypso Cove experiences
Passengers will alight at a lush arrival plaza with information kiosks, shore excursion ticketing, an iconic lighthouse and nearby excursions marina.
Just beyond, Calypso Village features shops, a straw market, Bahamian Cultural Center, Junkanoo parade viewing lawn, restaurant and bar. The adjacent Goombay Beach will be dotted with vendor booths and home to an airy indoor/outdoor restaurant.
Black Pearl Lagoon, at the heart of Calypso Cove, has a centerpiece adventure island with tropical gardens and waterfall plunge pools, a snorkel reef, kayaking and over-water cabanas.
Alongside, a lazy river float attraction will meander through Lucayan Springs Water Park, with a children's play area, restaurant and bar.
The long sweep of Tradewinds Beach is fringed by a palm grove with walking/bike paths and hammocks. It would be served by a restaurant/bar, and a wedding pavilion would be secluded at the far end.
Goombay VIP Beach, accessed by bridge from Black Pearl Lagoon, is an exclusive waterfront retreat with VIP cabanas and a bar.
Calypso Cove's conservation area envisions flamingo pools, a sea turtle rehabilitation lagoon, native landscape gardens exhibits and a Bahamian National Trust conservation/rehabilitation facility.
Destination development expertise
Torres de Navarra has more than two decades of experience in port and destination development. Past roles include CEO of Holistica (a joint venture between ITM Group and Royal Caribbean Group), VP global port and destination development for Carnival Corp. and VP strategic and commercial port development for Carnival Cruise Line. Prior to Carnival, as assistant treasurer at Royal Caribbean he was involved in areas including business development, capital planning and port development.
A first in the Bahamas?
'We're starting from scratch. I don't think this has ever been done before by any independent entity in the Bahamas,' Torres de Navarra told Seatrade Cruise News. This is his third heads of agreement with the Bahamas, following a Carnival Cruise Line development for Grand Bahama Island and a Freeport development for Holistica.
Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis, Deputy Prime Minister/Tourism Minister Chester Cooper and other cabinet ministers along with Long Island community leaders were on hand for Thursday's heads of agreement signing, which green-lights Azul Destinations to proceed with planning for Calypso Cove. No public funding is going into the project.
Present with Torres de Navarra 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.
Preliminary discussions with cruise lines have been encouraging and, now, with the heads of agreement signed, Torres de Navarra hopes for 'official' expressions of interest.
Financing talks are ongoing with international entities, including private equity, infrastructure funds and life insurance companies looking at investments.
A number of engineering studies have been completed. The next step is an environmental impact assessment, estimated to take approximately six months.
It is hoped construction could start by the end of 2023 with the first cruise calls two years after that.