Disney Cruise Line has announced details about its new private island in the Bahamas, as well as the highly anticipated fifth DCL ship. In this post, we’ll share new concept art, details, and also offer some commentary about the next ship and Lighthouse Point project, which is being led by Imagineer Joe Rohde.
To start, Disney Wish was revealed as the name of DCL’s fifth cruise ship. Disney Cruise Line has revealed concept art showing that the Wish’s atrium will be a bright, airy, and elegant space inspired by the beauty of an enchanted fairytale.
It’s difficult to ascertain from the concept art whether this will follow the established pattern of DCL atriums, or be more abstract or fantastical. I’d guess (and hope for) the former. Either way, it’s nice that we’re finally seeing something tangible for these new Disney Cruise Line ships.
Disney Cruise Line also revealed that the Disney Wish will feature Rapunzel on the ship’s stern. This is a fun tradition for DCL, with Goofy brought to life on the stern of the Disney Magic, followed by Donald Duck and his nephews on the Disney Wonder, Sorcerer Mickey on the Disney Dream, and Dumbo on the Disney Fantasy.
Rapunzel is the first Disney princess to be featured on a ship stern. With paintbrush in hand, she uses her enchanted hair to suspend herself as she decorates the stern of the ship with the help of her feisty sidekick, Pascal. Spirited, smart, curious and above all, adventurous, Rapunzel embodies the wish and desire to see and experience the world.
The Disney Wish is scheduled to sail in January 2022. It along with the other two new ships will be powered by liquefied natural gas and, at approximately 144,000 gross tons and 1,250 guest staterooms, be larger than the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.
Next up, Lighthouse Point. I think some background here is appropriate for those who have not followed this story. Since Disney began shopping for a second private island a few years ago, the company’s interest in the area has been met with a mixed reaction among Bahamians.
Disney’s first intended purchase on Eleuthera, an island about 75 miles east of Nassau, was on the north end of the island a few years ago. Bahamians learned of Disney’s ground testing at Egg Island and collected over 3,000 signatures to oppose Disney’s plans to build a port. Ultimately, Disney Cruise Line abandoned that project due to environmental impact assessments showing that island’s marine and environmental profile could not survive its intended development.
Following that, Disney’s interest on Eleuthera turned to Lighthouse Point, an area on the far southern tip of the island. The company entered into a purchase agreement with the land’s private owner. This deal has been similarly controversial among Bahamians.
Essentially, conservation groups have argued that the land should be set aside for a national park and that Disney’s high-volume development proposals will destroy the natural beauty of the island. They also contend that Disney would provide low-quality jobs and the economic benefits of the proposal are overstated.
(After reading more about this, we have serious concerns about Disney Cruise Line choosing to develop Lighthouse Point rather than elsewhere. Lighthouse Point is surrounded by important geological features and rich biodiversity, including endangered coral, high concentrations of sharks, fish and other marine life. The surrounding ocean is so biologically rich that the area has been formally proposed to the government as a Marine Protected Area. You can read more about the concerns of environmental groups here.)
Other Bahamians are concerned that environmental groups are overzealous, and their approach will slow tourism development. This could negative consequences for local communities in dire need of economic revitalization. Both sides seem to agree that there needs to be a balanced approach to promote both environmental sustainability and economic development.
While the debate continues, Disney’s proposal has been approved. Disney has agreed to turn over 170 acres of the land to the government, only developing 20% of the land, and taking every effort to ensure the project would be a cultural asset to the community and have as little impact as possible on the natural environment.
Enter Imagineer Joe Rohde.
Renowned for his culturally-respectful work on Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Aulani Resort & Spa in Hawaii, Villages Natures in Paris, and a variety of other independent projects, Joe Rohde is unquestionably Disney’s best ambassador when it comes to conservation and projects that highlight cultures.
Joe Rohde took the stage at the 2019 D23 Expo to share that he has embarked on an in-depth cultural tour of the Bahamas meeting with local artists and cultural experts. Joe has explored cultural sites across New Providence and Eleuthera, from Junkanoo shacks to noted art galleries, gathering samples, hearing from locals, and determining the best approach for telling their stories.
If anyone could “sell” a project like this to conservation groups or those otherwise opposed or on the fence, Joe Rohde is that person. He has an effortless way of passionately speaking about pretty much anything, doing so in an earnest and engaging way. He comes across as genuine and easy to trust. Unlike some stuffed shirt, if he says Disney will focus on culture and conservation, you believe him. Or at least, you want to believe him.
I have no idea if Joe Rohde actually met with officials from the Bahamian government to pitch Lighthouse Point, but his pitch on-stage at the D23 Expo certainly sold me on Lighthouse Point (and everyone else with whom I spoke after the Parks & Resorts panel). This is despite little in the way of substantive concept art or details. If it’s anything like a “light” version of Aulani or Animal Kingdom, the Lighthouse Point development should be something special.
Disney Cruise Line has indicated that construction at Lighthouse Point will begin after an Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan are reviewed and accepted by the Government of The Bahamas and public consultation has occurred. Construction is expected to begin in 2020 with completion in late 2022 or 2023.
I didn’t really care about this before Joe Rohde’s presentation. After it, I became legitimately excited about Disney Cruise Line’s plans for Lighthouse Point. After reading some more, I’m concerned about the environmental issues it poses. I’m not really sure where I stand on this, but if DCL does proceed with these plans, I really hope Disney is genuine in its plans to not disturb the natural environment and develop in an environmentally-responsible way. We shall see what happens as this saga continues.
What do you think of the Disney Wish cruise ship? Looking forward to this or any of the 3 new ships? What about Lighthouse Point? Does Joe Rohde’s involvement make this more interesting to you? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!