Carnival Plans $70 Million Cruise Destination in Tortuga, Haiti

ships at Grand Turk Cruise Terminal
Two Carnival Corp. ships at Grand Turk Cruise Terminal, another Carnival destination developed as a private island experience // Photo by Susan J. Young

Carnival Corporation has signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a new $70 million cruise port destination at Tortuga, an island steeped in colorful pirate history off Haiti's north shore. Bustling with pirate trade just a few hundred years ago, today, the sleepy island is poised for cruise tourism development.

Economic Development for Haiti

The new destination will provide more than 900 jobs for local residents, a ray of economic hope for many Haitians in an impoverished region with little economic development, primarily fishing. The current population is about 25,000.

In a press statement, David Candib, vice president of development and operations, Carnival Corporation, said, "The Caribbean is a crucial market for the success of Carnival Corporation and the cruise industry in general, and we remain committed to creating new and exciting products in the region."

He also said that not only is the Caribbean the most popular region across the globe for cruise vacations but it's where Carnival Corporation’s "roots" are. Currently, the world's largest cruise company owns nine brands that deploy a sizable amount of ships on Caribbean itineraries annually.

Carnival Corp. plans to partner with the Haitian government to turn Tortuga into an economically sustainable destination. It will give Carnival another new day activity port, allowing it to create more diverse itineraries in the Caribbean region.

RELATED: Carnival Corp. Orders One New Ship for Princess Cruises

Carnival Pride at a Bahamian island // Photo by Susan J. Young
Carnival Pride at a Bahamian island // Photo by Susan J. Young

A New Port Destination

The company has significant experience in developing such new ports. It owns port developments at Half Moon Bay in the Bahamas, Grand Turk in the Turks & CaicosMahogany Bay in Roatan, Honduras and Costa Maya along Mexico's eastern Yucatan coast.

Competitor Royal Caribbean International also operates private island destinations in the Caribbean, including Labadee in Haiti. But as this Carnival project comes to fruitition, it's poised to become the largest cruise industry development ever made in Haiti.

"The development will create an exciting opportunity for our guests to enjoy a new, secluded and stunning destination in the island of Tortuga that the company expects will become a highly popular place for guests to enjoy for years to come,” said Candib. “It also represents a major commitment to the people of Haiti by Carnival Corporation.

Tortuga will actually be the second new Caribbean port destination that Carnival Corp. is currently developing. The new Amber Cove on the Dominican Republic's North Coast will open in 2015.

Pirates were prolific throughout the Caribbean/Bahamas region; here is a display from Pirates of Nassau. // Photo by Susan J. Young
Pirates were prolific throughout the Caribbean/Bahamas region; here is a display from Pirates of Nassau. // Photo by Susan J. Young

Columbus and Pirates

Amber Cove's history links it with Christopher Columbus, as does Tortuga's. Spaniards were the first Europeans to land on Tortuga during Columbus' first voyage to the New World. On Dec. 6, 1492, three of his ships entered the passage separating Cuba and Haiti.

Columbus himself reportedly thought the island looked like a turtle shell so he named it Tortuga, the Spanish word for turtle. Later, French, English and Dutch landed on the island and fought over it.

The island changed hands many times and then in 1630, the English and French divided the island. Both authorized "buccaneers" -- a nice word for pirates hired by a particular government -- to use it as a safe haven.

Captain Henry Morgan was among the most famous pirate/buccaneer personalities who called Tortuga home. By 1670, though, the buccaneer lifestyle on Tortuga was in decline.

Tortuga's pirate mystique was readily embraced by Hollywood. The "Captain Blood" book series and the famous 1930s movie of the same name starring Errol Flynn featured Tortuga.

More modern movie pirate Captain Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp also spoke of Tortuga in "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Clearly, the fodder is there for Carnival to utilize in creating an appealing destination for modern cruisers in search of a secluded beach destination that conjurs up tales of the Old Caribbean and its pirate and bucaneer history.


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