EBONY First Look: Inside the New Private Cruise Island Paying Homage to the Richness of Bahamian Culture

“Trying to engage the five senses through color is very important to me,” Dorman Stubbs, a well-known Bahamian artist and one of the featured artists of Disney’s Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point says to EBONY. “In essence, I hope that guests visiting Lookout Cay have a grand understanding and feeling of what is truly Bahamian.”

This past weekend Disney Cruise Line invited me to be among the first guests to step foot on its newest private island. Located on the larger island of Eleuthera in The Islands of the Bahamas, Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point truly engaged all of my senses and so much more.

The shoreline leading up to the entrance of the island. Image: DeAnna Taylor.

As I disembarked our ship, the Disney Magic, my eyes danced as I saw the pristine sand and bold, cerulean waters glisten in the Caribbean sun. After the walk across the pier, we approached the main entrance to the island which was adorned with Stubbs’ artwork—a colorful mural of geometric shapes that also reflect the vibrancy of his culture as a Bahamian native. In the background, we heard songs and sounds playing over the speakers featuring steel drums and those calypso-like grooves—another huge part of Caribbean culture in general—and my hips began to move voluntarily.

After a short tram ride, also adorned with colorful artwork, we made our way to the main part of the island. The buildings were inspired by the conch shells found throughout the Bahamas, while bright pinks, blues, yellows and other bold hues literally danced against the neutral-colored buildings. When it came to details, no stone was left unturned. There were even shells pressed into the concrete walkways along the various paths.

“My style is inspired by nature and my surroundings,” Stubbs shares. “My love of Junkanoo inspired my artwork here at Lookout Cay. It’s a vibrancy, it’s titillating, and it speaks to our emotions as Bahamian people. We’re very emotional. Junkanoo has a special language for us because it draws on the history of freedom from slavery, and it resonates deeply with us. But even though history can be very dark, I also like to reflect on the joy, and my paintings reflect that.”

The beach area of Serenity Bay. Image: courtesy of DeAnna Taylor.

The island featured multiple buildings like retail shops and the Goombay Cultural Center where guests could participate in craft workshops led by locals, as well as areas for simply lounging along the beach. I personally chose Serenity Bay, the adults-only beach area with plenty of lounge chairs, umbrellas and private cabanas that were available for rent. Within a short walk, there was a full-service bar as well as the covered cafe in which we feasted on our included lunch of grilled burgers, BBQ ribs, rice and peas, fried okra, grilled chicken and more.

While I certainly could have lazied my day just laying out and taking in the pink sand shores (yes, Eleuthera is home to one of the world’s few pink sand beaches), the highlight of my day was the Junkanoo Celebration at the Goombay Cultural Center. On cue, a sea of decorative costumes lined the pathways as the Junkanoo band played various instruments. I felt like I was instantly transported to Bay Street in Nassau for the annual celebration.

The Junkanoo Celebration at Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point. Image: DeAnna Taylor.

“For the last two and a half years, we have been working with Disney to bring this to life. The most important thing that we stressed was the authenticity,” Warren Andrew Pinder, Co-char of the National Junkanoo Committee said.

“Junkanoo is a celebration of our traditions and our culture. It’s colorful and is expressed through music, dance and a vibrancy led by that beat that we really cherish. I’m extremely proud to know that the millions of people who will visit Lookout Cay will get to experience a taste of our Bahamian culture. That’s something we’ve been trying to do for a very long time.”

From left: Joey Gaskins, Kevin Thomas, Bradley Watson, Kevin Cooper, Dorman Stubbs, Warren Andrew Pinder and Victor Johnson. Image: courtesy of DeAnna Taylor.

In addition to the twice-daily Junkanoo Celebration show, there was other artwork reflected on the ceilings of the restaurants, across the children’s water play areas and even handmade crafts created by local artists available for sale in the retail shops. And in true Disney fashion, there were character appearances throughout the day, too.

“The Rush Out Gush Out water play area is inspired by a traditional Junkanoo shack. It’s the place where Junkanoo groups meet to design and house their costumes, and are located within different communities around the island,” Joey Gaskins, Disney Cruise Lines Regional Public Affairs Director for The Bahamas and Caribbean tells EBONY. “The shacks typically have tin roofs and serve as a communal space for people to come together in creatively.”

Rush Out, Gush Out Water Play area designed to resemble a Bahamian Junkanoo shack. Image: Kent Phillips/Disney Cruise Line.

Featured artist Kishan Munroe, who also works as a professor at the University of the Bahamas, says he’s hoping to educate guests through his installations featured along the ceilings of the multiple True True BBQ restaurants and the Sunsational Smoothie Shop.

“My art has always been about education. When I was first approached for this project, I had to do a lot of deep thinking about what elements of our culture I would use to tell foreigners about the truth of our culture,” Munroe explains to EBONY. “So, I went back to history to look at some of the materials and products that have been instrumental to our ecology. My work draws attention to the flora and fauna of the Bahamas; things like our conch shells and the straw used in the crafts at our straw markets. These are not only things that are at the forefront of our Bahamian realities, but they also have deep roots for us. This is just an introduction into our lives and landscapes as Bahamians.”

All-in-all Lookout Cay is a stunning place that gives us a glimpse into the richness, joy and vibrancy found within The Islands of the Bahamas. As Mr. Pinder so eloquently summed it up, “It’s authentically Bahamian with a sprinkle of Disney magic.”

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