It has come to our attention that International Design and Entertainment Associates (IDEA), an Orlando based industry leading designer of branded port of call destinations specializing in marine and waterfront development for signature port attractions, has been selected to design and create the Tortola Pier Park project in the British Virgin Islands in conjunction with Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line. Surprisingly, this was a footnote to IDEA’s press release announcing their work with Norwegian Cruise Line to develop an eco-friendly cruise destination in Belize.
Tortola Pier Project
The $75 million Tortola Pier Park was revealed to local residents on June 27, 2012 according to an article from VirginIslandNewsOnline.com. The $25 million will go towards work on the pier and excursion docks, $25 million will go towards the development of 4-acres of prime waterfront land adjacent to the pier with the rest earmarked for the community. The Government of the BVI will be leasing the parcel of land for 48 years with an option to buy out at 15 and 30 years to United Infrastructure Group (UIG). As a result, the Tortola Road Town Port expects to see an influx of passengers over the next 15 years.
The plan for the Tortola Pier Park is to transform the waterfront into a bustling and lively marketplace with a festive atmosphere attracting tourists, as well as local islanders. The waterfront development will include a shopping village complete with trolly cars to help passengers explore the village as well as a ferris wheel. In a way, this heavily themed area sounds a lot like Downtown Disney.
“The nostalgic Ferris Wheel festival theme and waterfront boardwalk greet visitors approaching by ship, introducing them to charming boutiques, arts and crafts, and waterfront entertainment. The old style village Chapel, surrounded by fragrant rose gardens, has its own story to tell. The Chapel now provides an idyllic spot in which to exchange vows or provide for family gatherings on the new waterfront boardwalk. Trolley cars stand by ready to carry passengers through the retail village and into Road Town to explore more of what Tortola has to offer. As visitors make their way further into Road Town´s main street shopping district, they can visit Tortola´s historic Post Office, and prison situated between two historic churches, and the Virgin Island´s Folk Museum,” stated Hugh Darley of United Infrastructure Group (UIG)
There is no mistaking the Disney Fantasy for any other ship in IDEA’s concept drawing for the Tortola Pier Park village.
The satellite image below shows the Port of Tortola circa 2004. The open area just off the pier will be the location of the Tortola Pier Park.
It is not uncommon for cruise lines to invest millions of dollars into the development of new ports of call, or even the revitalization of a current port of call in order to make spice up an itinerary. IDEA worked with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line on the Historic Port of Falmouth, Jamaica, which recently saw an overhaul that ultimately resulted in a new Western Caribbean port of call for Disney Cruise Line.
According to the aforementioned article, the Tortola Pier Park project is already underway & the expansion of the pier is expected to be completed by last December (2012). If the development goes as planned, the Tortola Pier Park project should be finished in a couple of years. On July 22, 2013, the Tortola Pier Park project development agreement was approved. Pending approval from the United Kingdom government work should commence this summer. According to an article from V.I. Connections Magazine the Tortola Pier Park project is estimated to open at the end of 2014.
“This development will create a destination for cruise passengers which will be open 7 days a week, whether ships are calling or not. The goal is to accommodate larger vessels and ultimately increase the passenger head count from 385,000 to 550,000 per year at $15 a head in the first instance.” – Mar Vanterpool, Hon Minister for Communications and Works via VI Connections
Currently, guests sailing on Disney Cruise Line’s itineraries with stops in St Thomas have an opportunity to visit Tortola via the Tortola Dolphin Encounter Port Adventure which takes guests via ferry to Tortola from St Thomas. The Disney Magic was the last Disney ship to have an itinerary with a scheduled call on Tortola, a January 3, 2012 sailing during an 8-Night Eastern Caribbean Holiday cruise from Port Canaveral.
What does this mean for future Disney Cruise Line itineraries? If we have learned anything from the Historic Port of Falmouth enhancement, if you build it, they will come. It was revealed during the June meeting that UIG would not have come on board if the Government of BVI was not able to secure assurances from Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line. It is unclear at this time what assurances were made by each cruise line, but it was mentioned that the there would be a minimum of 425,000 passenger arrivals per year with the cruise lines on the hook, paying the per passenger overhead tax promised regardless if they meet those estimates or not. Based on the revelations from the June 2012 meeting, I would not be surprised to see Disney Cruise Line announcing new Eastern Caribbean itineraries with a stop in Tortola in a few years if the project development remains on course.
One other project or vision IDEA has on their site is for the Port of Castrie in St Lucia. Of the six cruise ships pictured in the areal rendering, one looks like it could be either the Disney Magic or Disney Wonder. Look close at the small ship in the middle group with a dark hull, you can see a little bit of red near the waterline.
Coincidently, Hugh Darley from UIG is the President and Executive Producer of IDEA, and also a former Disney Imagineer. IDEA’s client list already includes The Walt Disney Company and Disney Cruise Line. Hugh Darley posted an intriguing article on IDEA’s blog regarding growth potential in the Southern Caribbean. I could not help but read more into his statement considering his apparent close ties with The Walt Disney Company. We already have Disney Cruise Line re-testing the Southern Caribbean market in 2014 from San Juan. Could Darley be speaking about future Disney Cruise Line plans when he mentions, “In the absence of new commitments, ships may be repositioned to Asia, Europe, and South America for long periods of time. New ship builds coming on line in 2015 and 2016 with existing smaller vessels being redeployed to new markets, the Southern Caribbean must seize the time critical opportunity or possibly miss this wave of new deployment.” ???
What are your thoughts on the Tortola Pier Park project? Would you book a new cruise or move an existing cruise to one that included Tortola?