How can cruise lines deal with popular destinations getting sick of tourists? Develop private islands and exclusive stops, of course.

  • Cruise lines are embracing private destinations in part due to overcrowding at popular ports.

  • At least 14 private cruise destinations have opened or will open soon in the Caribbean.

  • The exclusive stops could help manage overtourism by spreading out cruise passengers.

Cruises are more popular than ever, but they're also more controversial than ever, with destinations around the globe limiting or outright banning them from ports in an effort to combat over-tourism.

So what's a cruise line to do when it's no longer welcome at popular destinations? Create its own exclusive stops.

It's a strategy popular cruise lines are increasingly embracing. Private islands and beaches have popped up throughout the Caribbean, one of the world's hotspots for cruises. Travel Weekly reported there are already 14 private cruise destinations currently open or opening soon in the region, from Disney's Castaway Cay to Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay, both located on private islands in the Bahamas.

Carnival Cruise Line's Celebration Key, a $500 million project set to open in the Bahamas in July 2025 with resort-style amenities, is expected to welcome 2 million of its cruise passengers each year, Business Insider's Brittany Chang reported.

The private destinations are especially important in the Caribbean, where the demand for cruises continues to grow and where islands with cruise ports are already dealing with overcrowding. Travel blogs frequently instruct travelers on how to avoid crowds at the most popular cruise ports, like Cozumel, Mexico, and Nassau, Bahamas.

The private destinations in the Caribbean are also close to Florida, where residents of Key West have been trying to ban or limit cruise ships from docking there for years.

Destinations around the world have opted to ban or restrict cruise ships

Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice, Santorini, and French Polynesia have all implemented restrictions on cruise liners, from outright bans to visitor limits or limiting cruise ship size. The destinations tend to cite overcrowding and environmental pollution as factors.

Cruise ship passengers playing on jet skis near the pier on Royal Caribbean's private coastal peninsula of Labadee, Haiti.
Cruise ship passengers playing on jet skis near the pier on Royal Caribbean's private coastal peninsula of Labadee, Haiti.Ron Buskirk/UCG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

"There's tension for tourism, and then there's tensions for 'Well, wait a minute, this is too much tourism,'" Jay Schneider, chief product innovation officer at Royal Caribbean, told Travel Weekly. "Whether it's working with local ports, whether it's working with local governments, trying to find that right balance is where that macro kind of viewpoint comes in."

Koreen McNutt, senior vice president of sales and trade engagement and commercial sales officer at MSC Cruises, told the outlet one benefit of private destinations is that they can ensure they are places where the cruise liners are actually wanted.

Tourism experts say overcrowding is not necessarily the result of too many tourists but the fact that everyone tends to go to the same places at the same time. Spreading out cruise passengers to private and exclusive destinations could help address that part of over-tourism.

"At the end of the day, there's roughly 8 billion people on the planet. In the next 20 to 30 years, there's going to be another billion people on the planet. A lot of those people will travel. Where are they going to go?" Alan Fyall, the Visit Orlando endowed chair of tourism marketing at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, previously told Business Insider. "Well, the same places as everybody else."

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