This paper describes the role of physical modelling in the design of a new cruise ship terminal at an exposed site on the coast of Barbados, outside the Port of Bridgetown. Large scale 3D hydraulic model studies were conducted to focus on two of the key technical challenges surrounding the project: the risk of downtime due to excessive ship motions forced by the prevailing winds, seas and swells; and the extreme wave loads and overtopping associated with waves generated by hurricanes. The physical modelling was separated into two phases. The first phase investigated the moored ship response of two different model cruise ship vessels under a range of operational wind and wave conditions. The results of this phase helped determine the range of conditions where the motions of the ships and the associated loads on the portside elements were within acceptable limits, and showed that the expected downtime for the design vessels was satisfactory. The second phase of the study focused on wave-structure interactions, and in particular the impact of extreme waves on the proposed structures, including wave-induced loads on the pier decks, and the wave overtopping and flooding of the landside development. Several innovative measures were developed and tested to accommodate / mitigate the loads on the pier decks as well as reduce the wave overtopping. These physical model studies played a key role in the front end engineering design of the new port, and their results were crucial in assessing various alternatives, optimizing preliminary designs, and validating the layout, costing and construction of the new facility. Due to space limitations, this paper focuses on the second phase of the study, in particular the hydrodynamic loads on the pier decks.