Harvest Caye, it was supposed to open in March of this year, but delays in construction pushed that date back. And now, it has been announced that the first call to the Harvest Caye Cruise Port will be on November 15, 2016, and there will be four calls per week. Norwegian made the announcement at a cruise industry event called Seatrade Cruise Global – the world’s largest cruise industry event. Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia and the Tourism Director Karen Bevans, were there for the announcement.
According to a press release, Senior Vice President of Destination and Port Operations, Colin Murphy boasted that his company had used up to 200 Belizeans on a regular basis during construction, and that after they start up, they will employ around four to five hundred persons.
The island will feature a seven acre beach, a 15,000 square foot pool, 15 canopy pool cabanas a 130 ft. tall Flighthouse for zip lining and free fall jumps. The release adds that to further conservations efforts, 10,000 new mangroves have been planted throughout the island.
Norwegian reveals amenities at its private port in Belize
Harvest Caye being built on two islands off coast of Belize City
Seven-acre beach, resort-style pool area are among amenities
Island will offer thrills, water sports, eco-activities
Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line’s private port in Belize, will have beach villas, a large pool area with cabanas, a variety of aerial activities including zip lining, water sports in the lagoon, wildlife programs and a shopping village.
The cruise line on Wednesday revealed details about the port and recreational area it is building on two adjoining islands off the coast of Belize City. Harvest Caye, originally scheduled to open in mid-February, is now scheduled to open in November.
The islands will have a cruise ship pier so that passengers can walk off the ship and onto land and won’t have to be tendered. It will also have a large marina, the departure point for certain shore excursions.
“Belize is one of the most ecologically and culturally rich gems in the Caribbean, and Harvest Caye will be the perfect destination for guests to experience all that the country has to offer in authentic, unique ways,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian’s president and chief operating officer.
It also will have a variety of places to eat, although all will cost extra, unlike most cruise lines’ private islands and beaches — including Norwegian’s Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas — where dining is complimentary. Royal Caribbean, Disney and Carnival/Holland America include dining on their private islands and beaches in the cruise fare.
Guests at Harvest Caye have the option of returning to the ship for meals that don’t cost extra, a spokesperson said.
Harvest Caye’s amenities will include:
A seven-acre beach that Norwegian calls “the heart of the destination.” It will have 11 enclosed “beach villas” with air conditioning, private restroom, hammocks, indoor and outdoor showers, exclusive dining options and concierge services. The villas, available for rent, can accommodate up to 10 guests.
A 15,000-square-foot pool with lush landscaping, swim-up bar, a footbridge and waterfall near the center of the pool, lounge chairs, umbrellas and 15 cabanas available for rent.
A 130-foot tall “Flighthouse” as the central area for a variety of aerial activities including zip lining, suspension bridges, free fall jumps, a tandem “superman” style zip line and a ropes course located on a platform in the saltwater lagoon. Kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing will be offered in the lagoon.
Eco-activities and facilities including manatee observation tours, an aviary (with a breed and release program for Scarlet Macaws), butterfly garden and educational center.
Shore excursions that will include Mayan ruins, river rafting, nature tours and more, some of them on the mainland.
Five dining and bar outlets including a two-story Landshark Bar & Grill (with swim-up pool bar) that is an expansion of Norwegian’s partnership with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Other a la carte dining options: casual street-style dining in the shopping village, the Laughing Bird Bar & Grill on the beach, the Manatee Marina Bar & Grill in the marina, and the Horse-Eye Jack Bar & Grill by the pool.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ sister brands Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises will also call at Harvest Caye on select Caribbean sailings.
Norwegian announced in January that the opening of Harvest Caye, then scheduled for mid-February, would be delayed until November. At least six of the line’s ships had to change their itineraries, although most will simply go to Belize City instead. No specific reason was given, other than a comment that “We are dedicated to delivering the highest quality amenities and services to our guests in one of the richest ecosystems in the region.”
The delay was announced just before a judge ruled in a lawsuit filed in Belize that the Belizean government had taken improper shortcuts in its environmental review of the project in order to hasten development of Harvest Caye. The ruling did not stop work on the port.
A Landshark Bar & Grill will open at Harvest Caye.
Norwegian's port in Belize to have ziplines, freefall jump Norwegian Cruise Line divulged details of its upgraded Harvest Caye private port, scheduled to open in Belize in mid-November.
The port will have a pier where Norwegian ships can tie up, a seven-acre sand beach, a marina that will serve as a departure point for excursions, and a 130-foot-tall lighthouse structure that will anchor a pair of ziplines, a freefall jump attraction and several observation platforms.
“We think this is going to be a very, very popular feature," Norwegian President Andy Stuart said in a presentation at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference here.
In addition to the beach, there will be a 15,000-square-foot pool with a swim-up bar, cascading waterfall and canopy style cabanas available for rent. There will also be 11 deluxe air-conditioned beachfront cabanas that will have hammocks, private bathrooms, indoor and outdoor showers and other premium features. Pricing has not been decided, Stuart said.
Harvest Caye to Feature Cruise Ship Pier, Seven-Acre Beach, Adventure Activities & More Norwegian Cruise Line's new private island port in Belize, Harvest Caye, will have its own cruise ship port, making it the only port in the Central American country where passengers will walk off the ship rather than tender to land. The port will also boast a seven-acre sand beach, 15,000-square-foot pool, zip lining, suspensions bridges and free fall jumps, and five dining and beverage venues. Passengers seeking an exclusive beach experience can rent one of the Harvest Caye's 11 beach villas, each of which can accommodate up to 10 people. The villas are equipped with air conditioning, a dedicated lounge and dining room, a private bathroom, indoor and outdoor showers, hammocks and exclusive dining and beverage options with dedicated concierge service so passengers never have to leave the beach to get food or a drink.
For those who prefer pool fun to beach fun, Harvest Caye will offer a 15,000-square-foot pool featuring swim-up bar with stools and lounge tables in the water. The pool will be encircled by lounge chairs and umbrellas, along with 15 canopy pool cabanas available for rent. In the cabanas, you'll find upscale lounge furniture, privacy drapes and beverage service.
Harvest Caye Opens Next Week; Will Opponents Relent?
After extensive debate and more than a few hurt feelings, Norwegian Cruise Line is finally ready to get its cruise port at Harvest Caye in the Stann Creek District off the ground. An inauguration of the multimillion dollars tourism project is being planned as the first ships come into harbour next week. We hear more from Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia.
Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation
“With the Harvest Caye yes, I can inform you that on the seventeenth, that is next week Friday if I am not mistaken, the first cruise ship is supposed to be docking over there – Norwegian Cruise Line will be docking over there. And I believe that again, there will be a formal inauguration; I am sure that you all might be there to witness that milestone. I know there were many people critical of that project; I know that even today, there are a few local stakeholders that are not so happy about what is [it]; but we are still continuing the negotiations and at the end of the day after a few months from now, I believe that we will have practically most Belizeans happy about what will be happening.”
Animation video: Harvest Caye, opening November 2016
Take a peek at paradise! Harvest Caye, the Caribbean’s premier resort-style destination in Southern Belize will begin to welcome guests this November. Enjoy the natural beauty and culture of Belize along with lush native landscaping, a swim up pool bar, luxury cabanas, thrilling aerial activities, water sports and more!
Sneak Peek At Norwegian Cruise Line’s Exclusive Harvest Caye Port
Two days before Norwegian Cruise Line’s Harvest Caye Cruise Port officially opened #MyTravelingFeet were given a sneak peek of the island’s facilities and a chance to enjoy its charm before the masses did. It’s gates opened today, Thursday, November 17, to over 2,000 passengers eager to visit one of the most beautiful ports and destinations in the world,
The island was not running at 100%, a few of the facilities were operational with the exception all the food and beverage stalls, gift shops, the Macaw Aviary Exhibit, the kiddie activity pool and to my disappointment the big zipline. Even though I am in post-surgery recovery, I was willing to take the leap and fly headfirst like Superman across the island on the 3,000-foot zipline. Oh well, I might get a chance some day; should I book my cruise now?
The lighthouse that towers 130 feet is one of the island’s most impressive structures and an activity hub where guests can also take free fall jumps and marvel at stunning panoramic views of Belize’s Maya Mountains and the Placencia coastline on the observation deck.
Then, for those who would rather shop till they drop, the port offers name-brand retailers at their shopping village and Belizean owned shops with local crafts and gift items.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see LOTS more photos in the iTravel Belize Blog
HARVEST CAYE: THE NEW TOURIST MECCA IN SOUTHERN BELIZE
The Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE), under the auspices of the Ministry responsible for Investment, Trade and Commerce, is mandated to facilitate and promote investment in Belize. The massive investment happening at Harvest Caye in the southern part of the country is yet another vivid example of BELTRAIDE’s efforts to foster investments.
On Tuesday November 15, 2016 Belize Island Holdings Limited, a subsidiary of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, held a soft opening for its Eco/Adventure Cruise Port at Harvest Caye.
Harvest Caye sits a few miles south from the Placencia mainland and it takes only eighteen minutes to get there by boat. Upon arrival, the visitor cannot help but to enter in a state of wonderment as the vast beauty of the island unfolds.
Its turquoise water, sandy beach lined with beach beds, huge pier, and array of restaurants and bars, butterfly farm, nature trails, the welcome center, shopping centers, massive lighthouse tower used for zip lining, water sports facilities and its condescending giant pool all infuse the visitor’s amazement.
The Eco/Adventure Cruise Port will allow cruise line passengers to experience Belize at its finest on the island that has all the imaginable amenities to pamper the discerning tourist.
Harvest Caye is stunningly spectacular! But so is the continuous support the project received from the Government of Belize.
Like Harvest Caye there are also other projects that are benefiting from the Government’s keen commitment to foster investment.
Hola! Harvest Caye, 7News Forced To Take In The View From The Sea
Norwegian Cruise Line's Harvest Caye Cruise Port was opened today, and their first ship docked at their island getaway. That first vessel, the "Norwegian Dawn" brought approximately 2,000 guests for this opening day at the island which is just off the cost of the Placencia Peninsula.
And so, four years after it got off to a rocky start in 2013, the south is now opened to mass cruise tourism, after a long and bumpy journey for Norwegian Cruise Line.
According to the BTB, the opening ceremony was a gala event attended by Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Transport and NEMO, Edmon Castro, and the Special Envoy for Women and Children.
But, we only have second hand information on that because none of the local media was invited. That's despite our repeated requests to the Tourism Ministry, the BTB, and Norwegian.
But, undeterred, camera-man Codie Noralez, and reporter, Daniel Ortiz, crashed the party anyway. They started a very early morning journey to be there for that moment when the "Norwegian Dawn" docked on Harvest Caye. The island is private property, which means that they were only allowed get as close as NCL allowed. Here's what they saw:
Daniel Ortiz reporting
Early this morning the 950 foot "Norwegian Dawn" cruise ship slowly approached Harvest Caye. That's where it would remain for the entire day. On this Thursday, she would offload her two thousand plus passengers onto NCL's private island getaway, probably making history as the first major cruise ship to land in harbor in Southern Belize.
The captain skillfully navigated the channel created after months of dredging, and after about 15 minutes of reversing the boat, it finally came to a stop right at the facility's docking area. It looked almost routine, however, it is anything but. What you're actually observing is the use of the only berthing facility in the country, which allows vessels of the Norwegian Dawn's size pull right up to a land mass. It eliminates the need for cruise ship tendering, meaning that no other vessels were needed to ferry the tourists from the ship to dry land.
Now, keep in mind that this is private property, and even though we asked, Norwegian didn't give us any invitation to observe this important first for the country. So, we were about as welcomed as a negative guest review of Harvest Caye. For its part, Norwegian Cruise Line needed this launch to go off without a single hitch.
The first sign of that came from the Belize Port Authority who sped in our direction to investigate who it was that was in proximity of the vessel and the island. They quickly left us to our own devices when they realized that we were media. Also in the distance, from the island's berthing facility, Collin Murphy, NCL's Vice President of Destinations - the same one whose been ignoring our emails - spotted our chartered vessel and signaled for us to retreat further back. We did, and an NCL security vessel, approached to lay down the rules about proximity if we were going to be allowed to stay - seems this corporation has its own territorial waters.
We did abide, and we were allowed to observe the offloading of Harvest Caye's first visitors. Since this is an official port of entry into Belize, Immigration Officers boarded the vessel, processed the documents of those who would get off the ship and explore the island.
Moving on to other side of Harvest, we got a chance to look at the beach front, and the completed look was far more luxurious than when we visited a few months ago.
From the distance, we could see lawn chairs, a long line of tents, stationary umbrellas, all on one side, and on the other, there were several cabanas with guests already enjoying the seafront. Harvest Caye's sprawling beach did not appear at all diminished by the real estate repurposed for those amenities.
From the distance, we could make out life guards, and on-duty police officers all keeping an eye out for danger. Off to the side, there was a clean up crew on permanent standby.
As for the cruise guests themselves, they immediately took on the recreation packages that came with their visit to Harvest Caye. We saw some of them taking a dip in the sea, while others immediately signed up for zip lining, or rappelling, while some went Kayaking. Others explored the beach, and still, other left Harvest Caye on smaller vessels, most likely off on some diving, snorkeling or land tour. Others were congregated at what looked to be restaurant or bars on the island.
Taking in all of the island's polish from this distance required a bit of time, and every so often, we were reminded that the tolerance of the island's owners was wearing thinner by the moment. Having observed all we could from the sea, we ended our Harvest Caye escapade.
For a look at today's event from the inside, we'll have to wait until tomorrow, when the Government Press Office - which was the only media entity allowed to participate - will make the footage available to the press. A photo provided by the BTB shows Kim Barrow cutting the ribbon. In an accompanying press release, Heredia is quoted as saying that Harvest Caye will generate 500 direct jobs and over 1,500 indirect jobs by the year 2020." The island is said to have quote, "7 acre white sandy beaches, luxurious villas, a 1500 square foot pool…and a shopping village.
Brand new Norwegian cruise line terminal in Belize C America
Honored to be there for the inauguration..ENJOY
Harvest Caye Coming In From The Cold
In last night's headline, we showed you how Norwegian Cruise Line's Harvest Caye island getaway welcomed its first cruise visitors. It's a multi-million dollar investment in Southern Belize, and it comes with the only berthing facility for cruise ships in the country.
As we told you, we were refused an invitation to cover the opening ceremony, and the Government Press Office was the only local media entity there.
So, while we were only able to show you how the island looked from the distance on the sea, with the Press Office video from the island, we get to see all the pageantry that Norwegian refused to let us capture for Belizean viewing audiences.
And if Colin Murphy, NCL's Senior Vice President of Destinations and Strategic Planning, looked to be fighting back tears at during his speech - it's not because he was missing us!:
Colin Murphy, Sr. VP. Destinations and Strategic Dev., NCL "We put a team of 400 people, give or take, between us and Food & Beverage and we have one of our corporate trainers do a lot of training. I'm going to say 95% of the folks that you see working here have zero hospitality experience. We were so impressed by the quality of the people, by the attitude, by the big smiles and their willingness to learn so I'm very grateful. Finally, I've got to thank the government of Belize from the Prime Minister on downwards. To Minister Heredia my friend, and to every other minister in the government. Karen Bevans of BTB and her team, thank you very much for giving us this opportunity. We've all been doing this for what reason? So that you can come here for 7 hours and have a wonderful time right? That's all you've got to do."
Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism "On behalf of the government and people of Belize, I would like to welcome you all to this important occasion. The arrival of Norwegian Dawn to Harvest Caye today is a milestone in the cruise tourism industry, but for this to happen, it needed a lot of people with open minds, it needed the support of a lot of people in particularly one person that comes to mind to me who was up and down, back and forth never giving up is Mr. Colin Murphy from Norwegian Cruise Lines. I believe we owe him a big round of applause. Many times I thought that he would leave because of little hurdles that were around but he never gave up."
The man who's going to provide all the food and beverage for the islands 4 restaurants and 9 bars is Dustin Bowen. He's the step-son of the late bottling magnate Sir Barry Bowen.
Dustin owns the popular Belize City restaurant and bar, the Riverside Tavern, and his company, Provisions Belize, will cater to all of Harvest Caye's guests. He gave the Government Press Office an interview and spoke about how he and his team have prepared themselves for the opportunity which Harvest Caye's tourist traffic will bring:
Dustin Bowen, CEO, Provisions Belize Ltd. "We have the entire contract for all the food and beverage units on Harvest Caye. We've been involved since the inception for about 4 years. We've been very fortunate that Mr. Murphy has included us from then. It gave us an opportunity to really be a part of the development process of all the F&B venues here. So even from an operational standpoint, that helps us out a lot. Knowing what we need as operators and not just developers. We have Landshark Bar & Grill which is behind us, we have the Horseside Jack which stand in the villas, LaughingBird bar & grill which you saw today that was very busy on the beach in front of all of those lounge chairs, then Manatee Bar & Grill which is the village bar. We also manage the Kiosks in the village, Ice Cream, Daiquiri, Rum Coco, that is soon to be open as well. Not all Belizeans have the opportunity to go abroad, study and get the exposure. My commitment as a Belizean has, from the very beginning, I have a passion for people, I have a passion for food and culinary, and after my studies my intention was to come back to the country and spread that knowledge and wealth to give my people the opportunity to do the same. The intention is always to have them grow with me and eventually if they'd like to start their own business and become something else not just work under the provisions Belize Company, that's really the intention for them to own their homes, their own vehicles, whatever they want in life I really try to guide them that way. We employ over 150 people today now with Admin and all the service people on the island today. To finally have this come to fruition after being involved for 4 years, I had goosebumps walking up seeing the ship, being really close up and then watching all the people kind of spread out and enjoy the venues. We've had nothing but encouraging compliments and comments coming from all the cruisers. They say they've seen nothing like it before. The Zip lines, the activities, the food and beverage, everybody's very happy. Of course we're learning a couple of things they're going to request and like for their amenities, but it's all building data and knowing how to accomplish that within the next ship visit. This will definitely give Belize the justice it deserves because of the layout, the authenticity, when somebody visits Harvest Caye now you can truly say 'I've been to somewhere in Belize that represents Belize'."
With the opening of Harvest Caye, Cruise Tourism will now - for better or worse - become a key tourism feature of Southern Belize, which, prior to its arrival, depended exclusively on overnight tourism.
Tourism Minister Speaks About Harvest Caye Investment
Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia was on hand for the ribbon cutting and represented the Government of Belize. According to Heredia, the project falls within the sustainable tourism master plan.
Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism
“On behalf of the government and people of Belize, I would like to welcome you all to this important occasion. The arrival of Norwegian Dawn to Harvest Caye today is a milestone in the cruise tourism industry. But for this to happen, it needed a lot of people with open minds; it needed the support of a lot of people, in particular one person that comes to mind to me who was up and down, back and forth, never giving up, is Mister Colin Murphy from Norwegian Cruise Lines. I believe he deserves a round of applause. Many times I thought that he would leave because of little hurdles that were around, but he never gave up. The arrival of this cruise line today is so important to many Belizeans because of the job creations, because they will be able to showcase their cultures, their traditional products, and I believe that this government has done its fair share and we welcome investment to Belize. I also have to applaud the nine agencies that work together with the project and that is the Ministry of Investment, Petroleum; it’s agencies: BELTRAIDE, the Ministry of Tourism, particularly the Belize Tourism Board of which my director, Karen Bevans, did a fantastic job along with her team. Also Customs Department, Immigration Department; BAHA. The southern Belize people; those are the ones that we must congratulate because they are the ones that we must congratulate because they are the ones that will be living the day-to-day experiences over here. And I believe that the type of product that Norwegian has created today is one of the best in the Caribbean. They have tried to customize our Belizean products rather than having international franchise from around the area and we are very proud of them for that initiative. This particular project will be employing by the year 2020 at least one thousand one hundred and seventy-five workers directly and another seven to eight hundred indirectly. So it’s a big, big help to Belize. Also the project was constructed in line with our Sustainable Tourism Master Plan. Norwegian has been kind enough and working together with us to create the type of sustainable ecotourism that is needed and is welcomed in Belize.”
Harvest Caye And Overnight Tourism: Can They Coexist?
Norwegian Cruise Line blacklisted 7News from the opening of Harvest Caye, but there's hope for the local media: we're told that the Tourism Board is planning a media trip for to the Forbidden Island. That's supposed to happen next week Wednesday, so let's wait and see.
On the peninsula itself where overnight tourism has been thriving, Harvest Caye is seen as both a blessing and a curse. Yes, jobs and opportunities have been created, but all the streams of revenue and earning opportunities are rigidly controlled by Norwegian.
The question now is whether overnight tourism and cruise tourism can co-exist on the same peninsula. That's what we asked Stewart Krohn. He's been an outspoken critic of the Harvest Caye project from the get-go, in fact, he once called it crack-head economics. But, it's on the peninsula to stay now, and so we asked him how he and others who've invested millions in overnight properties will live with it:...
Stewart Krohn, Managing Director, Naia "Over the last few years with the different controversies we have had in the tourism industry primarily over cruise versus overnight kinda thing , our vision focuses on overnight tourism , make no mistake we thought Harvest Caye was a bad idea 3 years ago and we still think it is a really bad idea now but it is here and we have to live with it , we hope to keep that as separate as possible what is happening in the overnight sector and it is too early to tell but it is possible that could happen, but in terms in other tourism trends , we believe that the trend will be toward more luxury type tourism."
The average room-rate in Placencia compares favourably to those on San Pedro.
As we told you last night, the media was taken on an all day tour of Harvest Caye yesterday. We gave you just a small preview last night - but tonight we have the story of all the attractions at Harvest Caye, and why Norwegian is banking big on this hundred million dollar investment:...
Colin Murphy - Senior VP., Destinations & Strategic Development, NCL "When I'm here, I'm usually the only guy that doesn't actually have much to do so I walk around and I talk to the passengers and I would guess that speak to a thousand passengers a day and response has been overwhelmingly positive. I hear comments like best port ever, best port on this Itinerary, wish we had more time. So it's been overwhelmingly a positive reaction from passengers."
Daniel Ortiz reporting
On the Ground at Harvest Caye, it is very easy to see why any tourist who lands here, may immediately want to spend his or her entire day right in this location. All around, it is a paradise, conducive to fun, rest, and relaxation. With so much to do and enjoy, more than likely, you'll want to stay longer.
Norwegian gave us but a small taste. We had just 5 and a half hours to take in as much of their multi-million dollar investment as we could, and we ended up having to extend our stay past our scheduled time of departure.
So, what's the experience like?
Well, once the guests exit their ship, they walk onto the island from Harvest Caye's berthing facility - the only one in the country. There, they walk past this gate, which resembles those entrances at mega theme parks in the US.
They have now entered the Village, and they are greeted by a number of gift shops, mostly selling Belizean goods. Southern artisans and craftspersons have all their local wares on display.
Colin Murphy - Senior VP., Destinations & Strategic Development, NCL "We have a beautiful retail village with lots of local retailers including 8 kiosks which is designed for local artisans to have access to the market."
After the guests have had their fill of shopping or browsing around, they have a number of activities to choose from.
It's an Island, so it makes sense that one would go straight for the waterfront. Harvest Caye's beach is spacious and can comfortably accommodate hundreds of guests who want to lounge, sunbathe, or take a swim in the sea.
Colin Murphy - Senior VP., Destinations & Strategic Development, NCL "We have a beautiful beach here. We say its 7 acres but think it's more than 7 acres and that's very popular. We have 2 thousand 3 hundred lounge chairs and again it doesn't seem busy when the passengers are in because they are walking around."
For those guests who want a resort-experience, they can sign up for one of these villas off to the right side off to the right side of your screen.
For a drink or something to eat, the island's food and beverage providers are never too far away, and the waiting staff is always ready and willing to take orders. Provisions Belize has bar and grill joints set up at strategic locations all over the island.
Dustin Bowen - CEO, Provisions Belize "It's a food and beverage venue called Horse-eye Jacks obviously that's a local species of fish that we catch and we try to keep that true coherent to Belize, but we have all the villas over here for the guests and this main food venue for them Horse-eye Jacks is what gives them all this food and beverage services. Just so you can get a look at Laughing Bird bar and grill obviously all local hardwood. These are actually bush sticks that we used. I believe this is cabbage bark, the stain that it has on it all commercial high technology equipment that we are using in the bars, top of the line food grid equipment."
But, the island's main restaurant facility is the Landsharks Bar and Grill. It's an indoor and outdoor restaurant with an upper deck which opens up the view to almost the entire island. Here, Bowen's staff have prepared themselves to accommodate the highest volume of customers on all those busy cruise ship days.
Dustin Bowen "Landshark Bar and Grill the Jimmy Buffet brand restaurant that we have here on the island. So the entire restaurant itself main floor and upper deck and patio area we seat about 3 hundred people. If we include the pool, the pool and the lounge chairs an additional 350 lounge chairs out there so capacity of about `650, 700 with the standing room alone. This is our main bar as you can see again all high technology equipment, frozen beverage machines, island oasis, blenders we make a multitude of different drinks and so forth. I wanted to take this opportunity to show you something that we are really proud of and that's our 1 of a kind kitchen. I don't think any other kitchen like this in the entire country."
He's particularly proud of the amenities of the Kitchen area. It has all top-of-line equipment set up to take on any culinary challenge that might be thrown at them.
Dustin Bowen "Stove systems, fire suppression systems, everything in place. Also previously with us at Riverside Tavern, Oscar is now with us at Landshark Bar and Grill. Oscar has been working with us and with myself for over 15 years. when we rolled out the menu in order to get it right and to ensure that we first took a look at quality and service and then we added more items to do the volume and add a little bit more variety in that menu so right now we are doing prep out here but this kitchen here will lend itself to all the pool goers. so now this is going to be the pool menu that we are going to execute here in this kitchen and it'll go through this window so the servers don't have to come all the way back around into the kitchen, they'll come up to this window, we'll pass them their food and they go straight out to the pool."
The Landshark Bar and Grill is directly connected to Harvest Caye's 15 hundred square-foot pool. It has swim-up access with chairs and a counter from which the waiting staff can take orders. It also has a dedicated bar of its own for passengers on the other end of pool.
Colin Murphy "We focused a lot on the things that people can do without being charged. So the pool is obviously a great feature its 15 thousand square feet I'm sure it's probably the biggest in Belize. If it's now the biggest in the western Caribbean it's close to it. Even when the big ship is in 4 thousand 5 hundred passengers to pool it doesn't seem crowded."
For the kids, there is the splash house, which is kind of like a miniature waterpark ride, and does look a good time.
Colin Murphy "What you are looking at here is the splash pad. This is very popular with kids. A great way to cool off I think you should try it before you leave. On the first day that the Norwegian Getaway came we had a thousand kids and this place was hopping. So it's very popular with kids. A great way for the kid to cool off and then we have benches for the parents to sit and watch their kids as they have fun."
On the lagoon side of the island, there is an area for watersports, such as kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and electric float boating.
We did not have enough time to test those out, but we did take interest in Harvest Caye's "Flighthouse". It's a 136-foot high lighthouse with a twist. The island's designers have constructed a series of ziplines which takes you on a thrilling ride all across the island. The daredevils of Harvest Caye sweet-talked us into trying the Superman zipline. Being thrillseekers ourselves, it didn't take too much to convince us to immediately sign up and suit up to take on what the zipline staff says one of the scarier flights across the island.
Travis Roberson - Flight Deck Personnel, Zipline Staff "We always talk to the guests in a well-mannered way making them feel as comfortable as possible because some of them are new to this experience and it's kind of scary the first time you go on and a lot of them of afraid of the height. A lot of them a very enthusiastic afterwards. they come with big smiles and they tell us that it was amazing I was scared for the first 10 feet but afterwards the thrill you get when you go out the whole course and your guides are always checking making safety checks to make sure they are safe and they feel the comfort so they know they are in good hands."
And if you are glutton for even more, or you've done all that and want a different experience, as a Harvest Caye visitor, you can sign up for a mainland tour with H20 Tierra. They're the contracting partner that NCL has engaged to handle all tours off Harvest Caye.
Tom Wilson - Owner, H20 Tierra "We have 5 tours here currently 4 around shore and 1 is a marine tour."
So, for NCL, are they satisfied with how the Harvest Caye pilot project has been proceeding?
Colin Murphy "We open on the November 17th, we had 2 ships that week and it's been 3 weeks since so you'll have to do the math I can't figure that out. We have spent more than we said that we would. We have invested more here than we said we would. We have hired more people than we have said we would. We have sourced most of the products and work man's here as we said we would. all of our boats for example the boats that you saw today were built in Belize City, which we are very happy with and we are hoping that we can build some more for export to use in some of our other destinations so we think that we have delivered. We think that we have created 1 of the best ports of the Caribbean and not only do we think that our passengers are telling that so we are delighted. The whole thing for us is about the guest experience. So our passengers are telling us that they love it. We are happy with that."
And while Norwegian is counting the money, here in Belize City at the Fort Street Tourism Village, they are counting their losses. Multiple tour operators we independently spoke to told us their losses in revenue are between 50 and 75% because now only one Norwegian Cruise comes to the city and that is every other week. Everyone we spoke to agreed that Norwegian cruisers were the ones who spent the most, and the other German cruise lines don't make up for it. The city has lost as many as 75 calls from Norwegian ships which now go to Harvest Caye.
Almost four weeks after officially opening its multimillion dollar cruise tourism investment on Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line formally invited members of the local media to visit the exclusive island getaway. It was our first and likely only invitation to the much talked about location and our news team made the most of the experience. But, along with the breathtaking sand, surf and world class amenities comes controversy. News Five’s Isani Cayetano and cameraman Chris Mangar headed south to Placencia and then journeyed by boat to Harvest Caye to bring you the following story.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Welcome to Harvest Caye, a lush island escape for guests of Norwegian Cruise Line who call on the Jewel while enjoying leisure in the Caribbean. Its emerald green waters, pristine stretch of white sandy beach and a botanical garden, which boasts a cornucopia of tropical plant life, are all features that accentuate the beauty of this tourist attraction.
It’s a sunny day, the sky is clear and from a distance we’re able to make out a very distinct aspect of the island, as we approach journey’s end. Towering high above the coconut trees, a lighthouse stands magnificently in the backdrop. Drawing closer, we realize that this coastal beacon is in fact the support structure for a pair of zip lines that span great lengths in either direction. The Flighthouse, like the sprawling swimming pool elsewhere on this exclusive property, are among many characteristics that define Harvest Caye.
Colin Murphy, Senior VP, Destination Development, NCL
“We focused a lot on things that people can do without being charged. So the pool is obviously a great feature, it’s fifteen thousand square feet. I’m sure it’s probably the biggest in Belize. If it’s not the biggest in the western Caribbean it’s close to it. Even when the big ship is in with four thousand, five hundred passengers, the pool doesn’t seem crowded. So the pool is a great feature.”
So too is the butterfly farm, a green enclosure that’s teeming with insects of various species. With equal emphasis on flora and fauna, there’s a lot to see on Harvest Caye, including a terrarium which houses juvenile boa constrictors.
Tony Garel, Conservationist, Harvest Caye
“When we were developing the island we came across boas on the island. So this one is actually from the island. A lot of the offshore cayes have boas on them, as you would probably know already.”
Well-known wildlife conservationist Tony Garel is a member of staff here. He’s part a group of about two hundred and thirty Belizeans employed directly by NCL. Jobs on the island are as diverse as they come.
“I’m incredibly proud of the team that we’ve created here. So we have, and when I say we, Belize Island Holdings Limited which is our operating company, has two hundred and thirty full-time staff, Belizeans working on the island and we also have some in our offices on Malacate. Our food and beverage concession, ProVisions Belize which is Mr. Bowen has another hundred and thirty and probably there’s another fifty in the retail program. So there’s close to four hundred locals working on the island.”
Among them is a pair of Maya women dressed in traditional garb. Together, they have journeyed from the mainland to find work on the island. Skilled in weaving and basketry, the duo has woven trinkets and other items for sale on the retail floor.
Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism
“I believe that the livelihoods of the [people of] southern Belize will start to flourish. I believe that southern Belize, with Mr. Wilson, there are at least over sixty persons that are being employed. The bus owners, I think it’s Mr. Romero from down south who is being contracted by Mr. Wilson to do, all the drivers are Belizeans. Likewise, if you look at the kitchens over here, Dustin is one from my constituency and I consider him a real San Pedrano.”
The Minister of Tourism is referring to Dustin Bowen. The celebrated chef is the recognized face of the Riverside Tavern. Bowen’s business venture is quite similar to his restaurant and bar in Belize City. The major difference, however, is the scale of the operation that Land Shark has undertaken.
Dustin Bowen, CEO, ProVisions Belize Ltd.
“We were very honored to get the contract and also very aware of the challenge based on the number and the volumes that you’re talking about. But we’ve had a lot of support coming from Norwegian Cruise Line with their staff, their executive chefs and trainers. On the same token, Margaritaville, which is a Jimmy Buffet brand, along with Land Shark has brought down a team to help us train and go through these processes to ensure that we are successful in knowing how to handle these volumes and these particulars.”
Notwithstanding the myriad of amenities and highlights on Harvest Caye, the initiative isn’t without its share of criticisms and detractors. The exotic location has been compared to an island in San Francisco Bay known as Alcatraz, simply meaning that once on the island, tourists are not able to escape elsewhere to enjoy the Belizean experience. That dysphemism, if you allow other tour operators to tell it, is furthest from the truth.
Thomas Wilson, Tour Operator, H20 Tierra
“We’re the primary tour operator here for the time being. We have five tours here currently, four are on shore and one is a marine tour. NCL’s tenders brings in the guests in the morning and we put them on buses and those buses take them to various venues in southern Toledo District and there’s one up in the Stann Creek District. I also have a marine tour that is run off the island.”
Since its inception, NCL has had to contend with industry stakeholders who are intent on seeing the project’s demise. Having come this far, the company is still under fire from local operators, particularly from the Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize. FECTAB maintains that Harvest Caye is robbing Belizean tour operators of their livelihoods.
“We’ve been working with the government, with BTB, for years on this project and everyone knows what we were planning to do. Everybody knew what the start date was and actually, as you know, we delayed this project for a year so the folks in Belize City got an extra twelve months from us than was originally planned and was originally communicated. So everyone knew what the start was for Harvest Caye if they’re taking passenger bookings for days that the ship, they knew, wasn’t going to be in Belize City. I don’t understand how that can happen. There are other folks that don’t appreciate what we’re doing or don’t understand what we’re doing but really we are very focused, we’re very guest focused as an organization. Our first concern always is guest satisfaction.”
Manuel Heredia Jr.
“Apart from the job creation which is the bigger part of what we envisioned, the creation of jobs, we still have our, the same taxes that are collected in the village are being collected over here through the Belize Tourism Board. So it will be additional monies that will be able to be spent on marketing, not only for cruise but for overnight tourism also. So there again, we have a substantial benefit that will be deriving from this. I think it’s four dollars per head that is being paid.”
That is US four dollars per person who disembarks from NCL’s vessels. The largest cruise ship calling to port at Harvest Caye carries approximately four thousand, five hundred passengers. That’s about thirty-six thousand Belize dollars in taxes and that’s because on average there are three ships that call to port here weekly. All things considered: a private investment north of fifty million US dollars, job creation and economic stimulus; is Harvest Caye really Alcatraz or is it Paradise, as its owners describe it?
Behind-the-Scenes: Norwegian Cruise Line Impresses with New Harvest Caye For the most part, the concept of cruise line private islands has been the same for years – a controlled shoreside experience mostly insulated from the surrounding region – so it’s refreshing to see Norwegian Cruise Line expand on it to craft a whole destination experience that embraces the mainland and its local operation with the brand new Harvest Caye (pronounced “key”) in Belize.
Before Colin P. Murphy, Senior Vice President, Destination & Strategic Development for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., and Dan Drahozal, Guest Services Director, offered a select group of journalists an exclusive tour of the Belizean port-of-call, I had high hopes for the island development based on beautiful renderings, but only after experiencing the stellar island for myself can I confirm that it is set to give the competition a run for their money.
"The Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE), under the auspices of the Ministry responsible for Investment, Trade and Commerce, is mandated to facilitate and promote investment in Belize."
What about Harley Davidson and Jimmy Buffett's landshark are Belize?
The only Belizean parts seem to be those serving you.