Mahogany Bay Opening for Business
The first cruise ship is due to arrive on November 20 at the new Mahogany Bay Cruise Center (MBCC). Construction on the $62 million project began in November 2008. This is the largest facility Carnival has built in the world, and one of the largest in the Caribbean.
Up to 600 Hondurans worked on the project as construction workers, welders, divers, underwater inspection, and environmental monitoring. Once finished, Carnival will directly employ 75 locals in the areas of food and beverage, retail, transportation, tour operation, security, and maintenance. An estimated 350-400 people will be employed by tenants in retail and food and beverage. An estimated 1,000 people will be employed indirectly through tours, taxis, and other tourist outlets.
Carnival representatives say that they made an effort to employ local companies and workers for all phases of construction. “We were conscious of the fact there had been problems in the past and wanted to keep the focus on hiring almost all locals, thus helping the immediate economy,” said Reimers. Exceptions are American Bridge, who constructed the highly specialized concrete pier, Rainforest Arial Trams, and two Guatemalan specialists. Reimers is the only foreigner positioned on Roatan as general manager in charge of security and maintenance.
The cruise ship facility dock is scheduled to receive of 225 ships in 2010, an estimated 500,000 people arriving on four to eight cruise ships a week.
The main attraction in the center is Coral Cay and Mahogany Beach. The extended beach area provides space for beach lounging, kayaks, glass bottom boats, and a playground area for kids. Development on the Cay utilized existing structures to create the Hurricane Hole restaurant and bar. Cruise shippers will access the Cay by pedestrian bridge, or a specialty aerial tram.
The tram was not in the original plans. Carnival did budget for a special attraction in the MBCC, but did not decide until later in the construction phase what that would be. “Every [cruising] facility attempts to find a popular feature to give extra value and provide something memorable for the passengers,” said Mike Reimers, General Manager for Mahogany Bay. Reimers worked on Utila as a divemaster 15 years ago and has been working around the world ever since, his past appointment on Grand Turk. “Returning to the Bay Islands for this position is like coming home,” said Reimers. The tram was built by Rainforest Aerial Trams, US company that has built trams in Costa Rica, St. Lucia, Dominica, and Jamaica. The $1 million tram project took one year to build. Moving at a speed of 1.3 meters per second, the 65 chair lift can move 1,650 people per hour. The passengers should reach Coral Cay in five minutes.
It took three landscaping contractors to finish the job and attempts at bringing in over 20 foot tall trees from Florida were foiled by Honduran Ministry of Environment (SERA). The project ended up utilizing local flora and fauna. According to Reimers the most difficult part of the project was dealing with natural factors, such as the earthquake and an unusually intense rain season, and the changing political situation.
The main plaza in Mahogany Bay is made up of 15 buildings housing 22 retail spaces, as well as three food and beverage spaces, two car rental offices, and a tourist information booth. In late October, all but one space had been leased. One building houses 15 craft stalls for local vendors and artisans. Also available for lease will be portable vending carts.
The plaza also contains a tourist educational area with two exhibits: one focusing on the Garifuna history and culture, and the other on the shrimp industry in the Bay Islands. [/private]