Royal Caribbean Cruises Shifts to Land With $100 Balloon Rides

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is merging two industry trends -- ship-based thrill rides and private islands -- with the $200 million expansion of its CocoCay resort in the Bahamas.

The island’s new attractions, which open May 4, include a water park with 13 slides, a zip line and an opportunity to soar in a helium balloon. Oasis Lagoon, a swimming area with rafts and a thatch-roof bar, is billed as the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Shifts to Land With $100 Balloon Rides

The cruise operator has improved the port at the island so that two large ships can dock at once without having to put passengers on smaller vessels, called tenders. The Miami-based company, the No. 2 cruise operator behind Carnival Corp., expects as many as 2 million passengers a year to disembark on the island, up from 700,000 currently.

In an interview, Chief Executive Officer Richard Fain said the company will be adding the island to more of its Caribbean itineraries and leave some ships docked overnight, so guests can participate in evening events. Some activities will cost extra, with prices ranging from $39 to $149 per person.

“It’s huge, it’s really a transformational change,” he said.

Cruise lines have operated private islands since the 1970s, giving customers a stress-free way to hit the beach, and keep them buying drinks and making other purchases. In recent years, competitors from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. to MSC Cruises have invested in eco-friendly day resorts with private cabanas and the like.

Royal Caribbean has operated the 140-acre island, officially named Little Stirrup Cay, as a private destination since 1990.

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