The pandemic cost Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report — not to mention rivals Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report — billions of dollars. All three saw their operations fully shut down in North America from March 2020 through July 2021.
That shutdown essentially cost Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian all their revenue and forced them to issue billions of dollars in refunds. When that happened, the three companies slammed the brakes on any nonessential expenses.
Cruise ships can’t be shut down the way, say, a restaurant can be. Docking them costs money, and only so many docks to which a cruise ship can pull up are available. That left Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian with most of their ships left anchored at sea (usually around their private islands), burning fuel, and requiring crews to keep them afloat.
Those ships also require maintenance and crews have to eat. And while all three cruise lines furloughed or laid off employees, staff needed to be kept to process cancellations, handle future marketing and, eventually, take new orders. Because of that, Royal Caribbean paused work on two highly anticipated major projects,
Now, with the cruise lines inching back toward normal, Royal Caribbean has restarted work on those projects.
Royal Caribbean Makes a Routine Port a Major Destination
Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian all routinely stop in Nassau, Bahamas, on Caribbean cruises. That’s a destination many seasoned cruisers simply choose not to get off in. The island has nice beaches, interesting shops, and a wide mix of food options, but a lot of people who cruise have had their fill of the place.
To make Nassau an exciting destination, Royal Caribbean had planned to build a private beach club — sort of a version of its Coco Cay private island — on Nassau. Work on that project had stopped due to the pandemic, but the company is moving forward with it, according to a report from Matt Hochberg at The Royal Caribbean Blog (which has no affiliation with RCL).
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Called the Royal Beach Club, this theoretical private club would cost $50 million for a 13-acre location featuring two 35,000-square-foot dining pavilions capable of accommodating 1,500 passengers each.
It would also have “a 26,000 square foot pool; 4,000 square foot “splash pad” for children; 14 beach bars; restrooms and cabanas; and support infrastructure that includes a reverse osmosis plant, wastewater plant, waste management facility, storage building, and fuel storage all contained on two acres,” Hochberg reported in an earlier story.
The company had not confirmed that the Royal Beach Club would move forward, but speaking to a group of reporters on Wonder of the Seas’ initial sailing, Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Mark Tamis confirmed that it was back on track.
“Moving forward, we are still in negotiation with the government on the full proposal,” he said. “We’ve been going through our environmental impact assessment. We’ve posted as a result of that on our website, our various plans.”
Coco Cay Improvements Coming Too
Royal Caribbean has made its Caribbean private island a true destination. While Carnival and Norwegian’s private islands basically just offer beaches, Royal Caribbean’s features a giant pool as well as an added-fee water park and beach club.
Now, the cruise line has confirmed that it’s moving forward on an adults-only beach addition to Coco Cay.
“Hideaway Beach is under construction right now,” Tamis said, according to Hochberg. “There were a handful of decisions that we made during the pandemic to be smarter about that construction, specifically just the movement of some of the back of house functions. It’s going to be an amazing adult space for about 2,000 guests [opening in] mid- to late-2023.”
Coco Cay already gives Royal Caribbean an advantage over Carnival and Norwegian when it comes to attracting customers (though some people do prefer a more unspoiled beach).
Adding Hideaway Beach and creating a beach club in Nassau gives the company two additional lures for anyone looking to cruise in the Caribbean.