Royal Caribbean’s New Development Faces Backlash

Royal Caribbean's plans for the new Royal Beach Club in Nassau, Bahamas, faces backlash from a major nearby resort

Royal Caribbean recently announced it will open its new Royal Beach Club resort in 2025. The 17-acre destination experience will be located at the western end of Paradise Island in Nassau, The Bahamas. It will feature a combination of the island’s stunning beaches and the cruise line’s signature experiences. 

However, while everything seemed to be ready for the cruise line to start construction, the company is now receiving inquiries about its environmental mitigation plans from one of the biggest resorts in the world.

Environmental Concerns Voiced by Atlantis Resort

Royal Caribbean International plans to open a 17-acre destination experience, the Royal Beach Club, in Nassau, The Bahamas, in 2025. However, The Atlantis Resort in Nassau has now voiced its concern over the project’s environmental mitigation plans. 

According to the Tribune, The Atlantis’ senior vice-president of government affairs and special projects, Vaughn Roberts, confirmed the resort’s concerns over the proposed development of the western portion of Paradise Island in the Colonial Beach area.

Royal Caribbean's Bahamas Beach Club
Render Courtesy: Royal Caribbean

Atlantis says it’s concerned about how Royal Caribbean plans to mitigate any potential environmental concerns. In particular, the resort is concerned about how cruise lines have dumped waste in the oceans in the past:

Roberts expressed his concerns about dumping waste in the ocean by cruise lines, particular: “So we know that there are coral reefs there, we know that there has to be other environmental habitats there. So we just want to make sure it’s all done in a responsible way. Cruise lines have reports of dumping in the ocean and stuff. We’re not saying Royal Caribbean is guilty, but there have obviously been incidents in the past. We just haven’t seen enough of Royal Caribbean’s plans to know how they’re going to mitigate any risks.” 

The Bahamian government does not seem to be impressed by the concerns aired by Atlantis, instead the Deputy Prime Minister of Tourism, the honorable Chester Cooper, stated Royal Beach Club is still subject to environmental assessments:

Minister of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation, Chester Cooper: The Government of The Bahamas notes the concern of Atlantis regarding Royal Caribbean International’s proposed Beach Club on Paradise Island. In my official statement dated March 7, 2023 we stated that approval is subject to Environmental Impact Assessment and an Environmental Management Plan. That remains the case.

“The Department of Environment and Physical Planning and Ministry of Works are aware of the questions raised by Atlantis and I am satisfied that these questions will be addressed as a part of the normal process.”

On top of the environmental concerns, legal disputes are still ongoing between a Bahamian entrepreneur and the local government over how Royal Caribbean’s lease contract of Crown Land was procured.

The legal dispute between Bahamian entrepreneur Toby Smith, the Government, and Royal Caribbean centers on the two Crown Land parcels sought by Smith for his project. 

Smith received a letter of approval for the Crown Land lease over the two tracts from the acting director of the Department of Lands and Surveys in January 2020. 

However, the minister responsible for Crown Lands did not execute the necessary paperwork by applying his signature, as Royal Caribbean had rival designs on two of the Crown Land acres also sought by Smith for its own Royal Beach Club project.

Nassau Cruise Ships
Photo Credit: byvalet / Shutterstock.com

The chief justice has since ruled that Smith did not have a valid, legally binding lease from the Government for the two Crown Land parcels he was seeking for his project. 

As a Bahamian entrepreneur, Mr. Smith had consistently claimed that he was pushed aside to accommodate a major foreign investor, despite obtaining his approvals and legally binding Crown Land leases before Royal Caribbean did.

The ruling allows the cruise line to proceed with the Royal Beach Club, but the ongoing situation adds uncertainty to the project’s future and complicates matters for Royal Caribbean. They now must navigate concerns over their development’s environmental impact and any legal obstacles that may arise.

Reaction From Local Businesses

Despite the announcements from Royal Caribbean that the Royal Beach Club would be an excellent opportunity for local businesses, the general sentiment in Nassau seems to differ from that statement. 

Several business owners have been vocal about fearing that Royal Caribbean will draw business away from locals and focus purely on sales inside its resort. 

One local business owner said to the Tribune: “Royal Caribbean is going to suck business out of Paradise Island. The thing is nobody is going to want to stay on Paradise Island or even downtown, and Royal Caribbean is just going to take all of their guests to their side of the island. Lots of people are going to lose their jobs, too.”

This could very well be why the Atlantis Resort questioned Royal Caribbean’s plans. Day trips while in Nassau to the Atlantis are a popular way to spend the day in Nassau. Cruise ships are a huge money maker for the resort at $250 for an adult and $125 for kids for a day pass. 

If the biggest cruise ships in the world bring their guests to the Royal Beach Club instead of the Atlantis, it would mean a financial blow for the resort.

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