Bahamas: Record-Breaking Arrivals and New Developments

Chester Cooper

The Bahamian Government is celebrating positive cruise results, with a record-breaking number of passenger arrivals and new investments in ports and destinations.

The country is seeing a renaissance of the industry, Chester Cooper, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation, told Cruise Industry News during an exclusive interview.

“The Bahamas is still a magnificent place to visit. For decades, we’ve been saying that ‘it’s better in the Bahamas’ and we are showing that it’s still better in the Bahamas,” he said.

According to Cooper, the country had its best year ever for tourism in 2023, with over 9.6 million tourists arriving at 16 islands.

The cruise business was part of that, he added, with numbers up 43.5 percent for a total of 7.8 million passengers arriving.

“We expect these numbers to continue to grow in 2024, with data pointing to a 30 percent increase over the record we set in 2023,” Cooper said.

7 Ships in Nassau

“It’s credit to our strong brand, the strategies that we are deploying to get people to the Bahamas, our strong team, and our tourism machine with offices around the world,” he continued.

“We are excited about the prospects of continued growth of cruising in our islands and the new developments that are in the pipeline.”

Strong Brand

The country has built a very strong brand around the “beauty and charm of its islands,” he said, noting that the Bahamas has some of the most magnificent waters anywhere on the planet.

Cooper said that the Bahamas uses word of mouth for promotion, with former visitors “becoming ambassadors of the country.”

“I think that’s the most successful way for us to promote the islands of the Bahamas, by ensuring that people have a great experience and going back to share that experience with their family and friends.”

The Bahamas is also working on promotion missions in different countries, including the United States and Canada.

New Developments and Destinations

With several projects currently underway, the country will see new destinations and developments coming online over the next few years.

Cooper highlighted the large development projects currently being carried out by Carnival Corporation and Disney Cruise Line.

With its first phase set to open in mid-2025, Celebration Key is set to serve as a new private destination for Carnival Cruise Line in Grand Bahama Island.

Located in Eleuthera, Lockout Cay at Lighthouse Point will become Disney’s second private destination in the Bahamas when it opens in June.

As part of a partnership between Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, and the ITM Group, Grand Bahama Island is set for a new cruise port and water park, Cooper said.

“It will come on stream, hopefully, by the end of 2025 or early 2026,” he explained, also mentioning the Calypso Cove project in Long Island.

“We hope it will begin construction soon, subject to the completion of environmental procedures.”

Under a 25-year concession to Global Ports Holdings, the Nassau Cruise Port underwent a significant development project recently as part of a $300 million investment.

“This is our premium port in the Bahamas, and the investment is paying off handsomely. Some days we have as high as 27,000 guests arriving, sometimes as many as seven ships,” he said.

The country also invested in revitalizing the nearby Bay Street, with enhancements that include demolishing old buildings, refurbishing historical buildings, and creating green spaces, food markets, and themed murals.

Authentic Experiences

While the government feels very positive about all of these developments, it is pushing companies to bring more guests to traditional cruise ports in the country, Cooper said.

“Many of our cruise partners have their private islands,” he noted, mentioning Royal Caribbean International’s CocoCay.

“It’s a nice theme park, but we encourage the cruise lines to combine destinations, visiting one of their private islands and also one of our main ports,” Cooper explained.

“We prefer our guests to see the authentic Bahamian islands like Nassau, Grand Bahama, and Bimini. It’s an opportunity for them to not only experience cruising or the beach but to experience the authenticity of our way of life and the warmth of our people and appreciate our culture and natural beauties,” he continued.

“If you come to the Bahamas and go to one of the private islands, you’ll see the beauty of the water and the beaches, but there’s so much more to see,” Cooper added.

“It doesn’t have to be a situation of either-or; we can have both, and our preference is that the guests experience the authentic Bahamas.”

Homeporting operations

The Bahamas is interested in homeporting operations, which Cooper described as a magnificent idea.

“It works better for the boutique ships,” he added, mentioning a successful operation from Crystal Cruises in 2021. v

“Royal Caribbean did it to some degree of success during Covid. The challenge with the mega ships is that before they arrive, all guests must be accommodated in hotel rooms and that is restrained by the number of rooms we currently have.

“Homeporting is something for the future; it’s part of the Ministry’s strategic plan for the cruise industry, as we build more hotel capacity,” Cooper continued.


For the future, Cooper sees Grand Bahama Island featuring prominently in the growth of the cruising industry in the Bahamas.

“It will be a result of the new infrastructure being built,” he said, mentioning projects from Carnival Cruise Line and the ITM Group.

“By 2028, we’ll see the arrival of approximately 5.5 million visitors to the Grand Bahama Island. It’s a staggering number, as we currently have around 50,000 tourists,” Cooper added.

“There’s also an opportunity for additional berthing at the Nassau Cruise Port,” he said.

“Overall, the future for cruising looks extremely bright. We are encouraging more boutique and smaller cruise lines,” he said.

“We hope to attract more because they tend to cater to a higher-end clientele who wants to come back and stay longer. That’s the space that we are hoping to be able to expand.”

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