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Tortuga: Inspired Port of Call

May 22, 2014

Tortuga: Inspired Port of Call

Historic map of Haiti and Tortuga along the north coast

Historic map of Haiti and Tortuga along the north coast

In 1969, when I was just 12 years old, I watched a Wonderful World of Disney program about the making of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.  The program was personally hosted by Walt Disney and several of the original Imagineers.   One of those Imagineers was Wathel Rodgers, who would later become my mentor at WED Enterprises (“Imagineering”).  From that night in 1969 I knew what I wanted to do in my career; it was to be an Imagineer and create experiences like Pirates of the Caribbean.   While working at Imagineering in 1984, I was an inspired participant in the refurbishment of the original Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland. I was fascinated to work on such an icon of the entertainment industry and thought I had accomplished my dream at the ripe old age of 27. Little did I know there was more “piracy” in my future?

Now after a career spanning 30 years, I can truly say I have had an opportunity of a lifetime to not only work with Disney, but to actually revisit and participate in the legacy and legend that is the Caribbean.

Following the work to create and develop Historic Falmouth Jamaica, we are now developing ports in other Caribbean islands rich in stories of the past.  As an 18th and 19th century historic port, Falmouth inspired us to retell great storylines of piracy and trade in the West Indies.   We are now embarking on another real life Pirates of the Caribbean Destination in Tortuga.

I realize that, just as Walt Disney said his creations were a reflection of his 12 year old view of the world, I have carried and leveraged that childlike imagination with me all my life.  When I visit these future cruise destinations in The British Virgin Islands and now Haiti, I looked for the 12 year old perspective and image; what it could be?  In just the last few weeks it was verified that Christopher Columbus’ ships, the Santa Maria, lies just off the coast of Haiti. It was found by a friend of mine, Barry Clifford, a true explorer and Pirate of the modern day.  The wreck lies not far from our future cruise port, where it was lost on Christmas in 1492.   The wreck occurred not long after after Columbus discovered Tortuga on December 6th 1492.  I can stand on the beach today, as will our future guests, and image his fleet of three small vessels just of the island discovering the New World.  Now that is an inspiring story for a cruise port destination!

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