(2:45 p.m. EDT) -- Is there a fire sale on manufactured Caribbean cruise ports? News broke late last week that Carnival Corp. is financing a $65 million docking facility at Maimon Bay, just west of Puerto Plata on the Dominican Republic's north coast. The facility is scheduled to be completed by fall 2013.
Business publication Seatrade Insider reported on Friday that the mega-company signed a memorandum of understanding with a Dominican joint venture partner, the Rannik family, to build a facility able to accommodate two post-Panamax size cruise ships.
No surprise here: The project will also include an adjacent retail, dining and recreation complex, as well as a shore tour and taxi staging area. Nearby Puerto Plata and its environs feature historic sites (Fort San Felipe), beaches and waterfalls.
Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz tells Cruise Critic in an e-mail that it's too early to say which Carnival Corp. brands will eventually use the facility. The company's holdings include Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises and Holland America.
"I can tell you that Carnival Corp. ships will have preferential berthing rights as is the case in Grand Turk, etc. – but the facility will be open to all cruise lines," adds de la Cruz.
Custom-built ports have become a regular feature of Caribbean cruising, with Carnival leading the charge. In 2009, the company introduced Mahogany Bay, a $62 million facility in Roatan, Honduras. In 2006, it unveiled a $60 million pier-and-playground in Grand Turk, the largest island in Turks and Caicos.
Other lines and independent agents are seeing the value, too. In February, Royal Caribbean launched its own ready-made cruise village in Falmouth, Jamaica. Falmouth now regularly hosts the world's largest cruise ships, the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. (Carnival also has a handful of scheduled calls in Falmouth in 2012). And only last week, we reported that construction had begun on Banana Coast, a new facility in Trujillo, Honduras, that's not yet affiliated with any cruise line. Banana Coast is scheduled to open late 2012.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor