Disney Cruise Line has won preliminary approval from the
Bahamian government to build a destination for its ships on the southern tip of
the island of Eleuthera, about 75 miles east of Nassau.
The approval, which was opposed by conservationists, came
from the Bahamian cabinet. A final agreement must be negotiated between the
government and Disney, and the Bahamian Parliament must sign off.
The project has been named Lighthouse Point, after a historic
lighthouse on the property. Disney has a purchase agreement with the current
owner to buy the site, a government statement said.
Plans call for the project to be finished sometime between
2021 and 2023. It would be the second private destination operated by Disney in
the Bahamas. The first, Castaway Cay, opened in 1998 and is a frequent stop for
Disney's four ships.
A pending expansion would increase the size of Disney's
fleet to seven ships by 2023. Disney
recently reached agreement with PortMiami to place two ships there, one
operating year-round on short cruises starting in 2023 and a second operating
seasonally on seven-day itineraries in 2024. Port Canaveral officials have said
they expect two of the three new ships to be based there initially.
A Cabinet statement said that the economic impact of
Castaway Cay on the Bahamas has been "significant." It noted that
that an opinion poll showed 60% of the residents in Eleuthera support Disney's
Conditions to the deal cited by the Cabinet include low-density
development and sustainable design, public access, and the restoration of historical
and cultural sites.
The Cabinet also stipulated that Disney integrate Bahamian
cultural and artistic expression into the design of the site and partner with
the community to do training and professional development programs.
Eleuthera has a population of about 11,000.
Disney expects Lighthouse Point to sustain about 150 full-time
jobs when it opens. After it buys the land, Disney has also agreed to donate
190 acres to the Bahamas for conservation and a private park.
Disney would become the only cruise line with two private
destinations in the Bahamas.
In a statement, Disney Cruise Line president Jeff Vahle
said, "We are excited to reach this important milestone and look forward
to working with government and the people of the Bahamas to create new economic
opportunities while preserving the natural beauty of Lighthouse Point.
"In the short term, we are focused on reaching an
agreement that is mutually beneficial for the Bahamas and our company, as well
as moving forward with an environmental impact assessment and environmental
Lighthouse Point Partners, a coalition that opposed Disney's
project as a land grab, said it was disappointed.
"It is regrettable that the government of the Bahamas
has capitulated to the demands of Disney Cruise Line to develop a private
cruise port on Lighthouse Point in South Eleuthera," a statement said. "Unlike
the sustainable proposal of the Lighthouse Point Partners, the government, in
this decision, is perpetuating a failed model, with limited spend by cruise
passengers on the island of Eleuthera, compared to stayover visitors, with no
chance of Bahamian ownership of the core enterprise."