Royal Caribbean’s plans to set up the first exclusive cruise resort in the Pacific are proceeding a pace, with “trial” sailings of the largest ships of its fleet – and possibly the largest ship the locals of Vanuatu have ever seen – Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas around the idyllic 83 islands of the Vanuatu archipelago.

The “cruising trials” will begin this summer, and the Quantum class ships will be using the services of the Port Vila home port in Vanuatu’s capital, and including excursions to the pristine shores of Mystery Island.

Royal Caribbean announced plans to develop Lelepa into a resort before the pandemic pause, but earlier this year Cruise Passenger was told by the line’s president and CEO Michael Bayley passengers could land there as early as next spring.

The proposed entry for Lelepa Island

Located northwest of larger Efate island, the private resort, named Perfect Day at Lelepa, will delight cruisers seeking “authentic adventures and genuine relaxation,” according to Bayley.

Gavin Smith, the line’s VP and Managing Director, told Cruise Passenger this week: “At this stage, our approach to Lelepa is that we will develop a Royal Caribbean experience ashore using a phased approach in the years ahead. We are a summer-time brand, visiting Vanuatu from October to April over the traditional summer season, this creates an opportunity to complete development work on Lelepa across the winter months each year.

“Creating a branded destination using a phased approach over the next 5-years will allow us to enhance the guest experience each season by creating new benefits each winter for guests to enjoy the following summer.
“We are in discussions internally to determine a start date for this phased development approach. We will work closely with the Vanuatu government and the people of Lelepa to finalise our development timing.
“Creating a private destination for Royal Caribbean guests on the beautiful island paradise of Lelepa is central to business planning for Australia and the South Pacific for the years ahead.”

Early designs for the proposal are to reconstruct the island into a day trip private island destination for Royal Caribbean cruise passengers, complete with numerous restaurants, bars, cafés, swimming pools, beach clubs, entertainment areas and waterslides and rides similar to that of the world’s biggest amusement parks.

Another entry into Lelepa Island.

Following a Cruise Passenger exclusive interview in 2019 with the architectural firm creating the waterpark plans, head designer David Holm, of Cox Architects, revealed it’s going to be all about “chill and thrill”.  Up to 4,500 cruise ship passengers are estimated to be on the island per day, to begin with – offering the opportunity to experience a “Perfect Day” on a tropical island.

Mr Holm revealed the plans to transform Lelepa into a “fully carbon-neutral island, with sustainable energy and waste management system, and we aim to immerse ourselves in the local culture and design to achieve authenticity and calibre of thoughtfulness. Think of Indiana Jones, with a bit of Mad Max mixed in,” Mr Holm says

Royal Caribbean is already at work on the ground to win the hearts and minds of the local population through a strategy they’ve called the RCL Cares Program.

Essentially, this is Royal Caribbean’s pledge to donate money to areas in need such as social, environmental and educational areas.

Upholding its “Blue Green Promise” to support sustainable ocean communities, Royal Caribbean International has recently announced it will be donating basic educational supplies to the 70 students of the Lelepa Amaro primary school.

A recent RCL statement says “The cruise line worked with the school and the local community to provide renovation and repair support to the school, new desks and chairs for the students, equipment such as computers and printers, and teaching resources such as books and stationery supplies suitable for students of all ages.”

The local community on the island of Lelepa consists of around 500 inhabitants. Royal Caribbean states that its presence provides a key source of income and employment for Vanuatu, providing jobs and security for locals who rely on the cruising supply chain. It is unknown yet what roles exactly the local tribes-people will be given the opportunity to play in the new waterpark development.

However, Royal Caribbean remains confident following talks with Adela Issachar Aru, Chief Executive Officer of the Vanuatu Tourism Office that their return to Vanuatu’s waters will be warmly welcomed by the island nation whose livelihoods depend largely on the tourism industry.