Puerto Plata Officials Eye Infrastructure As Amber Cove Cruise Port Nears Completion
PHOTO: Work is progressing on a seaside amphitheater near historic Fortaleza San Felipe in Puerto Plata, where Carnival Corp. is building an $85 cruise port facility. (Photo by Brian Major).
A plan to build a bike lane along the city’s malecon (seaside boulevard) in the Dominican Republic’s Puerto Plata district is raising local eyebrows. A Dominican news report contends Carnival Corp. officials are seeking to “privatize” a lane of the malecon to create the bike lane, despite the city’s mayor warning of “potential traffic jams” that would result.
Miami-based Carnival is nearing completion of an $85 million, purpose-built cruise ship facility in the historic city. A Puerto Plata official earlier this month complained the bike path relies on narrowing malecon traffic lanes, a scenario the official called “not possible.”
In addition, the Dominican Today report says a recent Puerto Plata City Council public hearing was suspended “because several council members were unaware of the initiative.”
In fact it remains unclear exactly who is behind the proposed bike lane. While Carnival officials have worked closely with the Dominican government on the Amber Cove development, a spokesman at the Miami-based company said last week officials were “not been directly involved in the proposals” to build a bike lane.
While Carnival “expect[s] many guests to visit the town of Puerto Plata on their own and as part of organized tours, we have not specifically discussed bike lanes,” said Vance Gulliksen, a Carnival spokesman.
Instead, Carnival officials “have worked in liaison with the tourism ministry on providing them with insight and guidance to prepare the area and make it as attractive as possible for visitors,” he said.
Most recently David Candib, vice president, development & operations, at Carnival Corp.’s global port & destination development group met with Julio Almonte, the Dominican Republic’s vice minister of tourism.
The parties discussed “designated drop-off and pick-up areas; areas of the historic city center to serve as the gateway to the facility and ways to integrate” Fortaleza San Felipe, a 16th century fortress and local attraction, into “more pedestrian-friendly environments,” Gulliksen said. “We continue to communicate with the tourism ministry both regionally and in the capital,” he added.
While she could not identify the parties behind the proposal, Ambra Attus de Abbott, executive director of ASHONORTE (the Association of Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism Companies of the Northern Dominican Republic), agreed Carnival Corp. did not submit the bike lane idea.
She said the plan was submitted directly to Puerto Plata’s municipal government by a “private investor” related to Carnival Corp. “As far as we know, it's from some private investor related to Carnival and Amber Cove who has presented a proposal directly to city hall for a specific project,” she said.
Jakaria Cid, executive director of the Cluster Turistico del Destino Puerto Plata (CTDPP), a government development agency, added that her organization has not received “reliable official confirmation or accurate details of [the] project” and has “requested information to the corresponding official authorities.”
Cid said the parties “will eventually formulate a position “according to the best interest of the town of Puerto Plata, its people and its sustainable tourism.”
Carnival is building the port in partnership with Grupo B&R, a Dominican port development firm. The facility is expected to host more than 250,000 cruise passengers in its first year and provide 430 local jobs. The name Amber Cove refers to the region’s rich minerals reserves, which are highlighted by generous amounts of amber.
A popular destination in an earlier era of Dominican tourism, Puerto Plata’s attractions include an amber museum and the Caribbean’s only aerial tramway. The tram takes visitors to the summit of Pico Isabel de Torres, a 2,601-foot high mountain located within the city’s limits.
The malecon bike lane would run from the port facility in the city’s Maimon neighborhood and wind through the street on and off the malecon, according to the Dominican Today report. As in countless Caribbean cities, Puerto Plata’s malecon is a scenic and popular gathering spot for both tourists and locals.
Despite the reported dispute, the Amber Cove project enjoys strong support from the tourism ministry and affiliated federal agencies, said Attus de Abbott. “The government [and] private entities are working on preparing Puerto Plata for the arrival of the cruises,” she said. The first shipboard guests are slated to disembark on October 6.
Meanwhile the Tourism Ministry is nearing completion of a seaside amphitheater adjacent to the Fortaleza San Felipe site. Work is also underway to widen the road from the Maimon district to the port facility.
“[We] are enlarging the road that goes from Amber Cove to central Puerto Plata and also remodeling the historical center of town,” said Attus de Abbott. “The malecon area will be improved and embellished. Traffic will be controlled and security issues have been addressed.”
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