Royal Caribbean is to build the regions’s first private destination island resort for its cruise ships on the pristine island of Lelepa in Vanuatu.
The line claims it will be the first carbon neutral private cruise destination in the world, and has hired a renowned Australian architectural firm to design it.
It is expected to take up to three years to complete and the line has taken a 75-year lease on the land.
Touted as the perfect next destination for the cruise line’s already popular concept “Perfect Day”, a reference to its private island in the Caribbean, Lelepa promises to offer passengers a natural experience, with a diverse local culture of the island nation.
The agreement was announced by Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley. It promises to create facilities at the destination in partnership with the local community.
Line chairman Richard Fain told The Australian newspaper American guests preferred private islands to actual ports – and he predicted Australian passengers could come round to the same way of thinking.
Cruise Passenger has reported in the past that Royal Caribbean has been scouting Australia and Asia for its first regional private island.
The ‘Perfect Day Island Collection’ includes the relaunch of the line’s private Bahamian private island Coco Cay. RCCL said it spent US$200 million refurbishing the island with a pair of water towers with 13 slides including the 135-foot Daredevil’s Peak. The Thrill water park will have the Caribbean’s largest wave pool as well as a kid friendly obstacle course pool.
Lelepa is believes to be different. Royal Caribbean is promising it will be build the island resort with sustainability features designed to safeguard the island’s ecosystems. It will be audited and certified by an independent, third-party expert to ensure it meets standards for carbon neutrality.
Details on the extensive and innovative techniques that will be employed to achieve carbon neutrality and details will be released soon. Australia’s Cox Architecture has been hired to do design work.
Currently, Lelepa island, one of 83 islands within Vanuatu’s archipelago, and is largely undeveloped, with pristine white sandy beaches, stunning coral reefs, natural palm trees and even world war heritage listed artefacts.
“We believe our destinations should be sustainably designed,” Mr Bayley said. “That idea goes beyond simply protecting the ecological features of Lelepa and includes showing respect for the people and traditions that make this a special place.”
While cruise ships are a regular sight in Vanuatu, this is the first time large passenger cruise ships will be berthing at the northern end of Vanuatu’s main island Efate, giving Royal Caribbean exclusive access to some of the popular features at this end of the island.
The snorkelling and diving is world-class, there’s a turtle sanctuary on the nearby Pele island, as well as village tours and stunning private resorts open for lunch for day visitors at Moso Island and Havannah Harbour.
Vanuatu Prime Minister Salwai said: “Vanuatu is a true paradise for both our people and the visitors we welcome to our shores each year.
“Today marks a major step forward in our island nation’s close relationship with Royal Caribbean and one that will support sustainable growth for future generations. The Ni-Vanuatu people look forward to welcoming Royal Caribbean guests from around the world to enjoy extraordinary adventures and relaxation during their Perfect Day at Lelepa.”
Mr Bayley also said “Perfect Day at Lelepa will have a different look and feel from Royal Caribbean’s wildly popular Perfect Day at CocoCay ” because our guests around the world all have different definitions for their perfect day — and all of them are right. Our designers and nature have created the ideal South Pacific experience and we expect the results will be stunning.”
Antoun Jabbour, local owner at nearby boutique eco resort The Moso says this isn’t news for the region “we heard stories about this long ago – some of the locals in the community have been in favour of the idea and some against it because they are worried about the environment.
“But if anyone’s going to do it right, we would hope that it would be these guys,” he said. “There are two quite large villages on the island and we hope it will bring an economy boost for the local villagers. If they can do that and as long as they can do it by looking after the environment then we think it’s a fantastic idea.”
“Our worst concern is about jet skis. Locals have also said they don’t want jet skis because they want to protect the coral. It could boost the education for the visitors about the area of Vanuatu and perhaps bring return visitors who want to stay longer. This is a really popular spot for people who want a romantic destination, so perhaps we can see loads of people returning for weddings and we’d be happy to see that!,” Mr Jabbour added.
“As long as it is true to the environment and true to the locals, then we welcome the move,” Mr Jabbour said.