Three cruise ships switch from Falmouth, Jamaica

| 09/07/2017 | 12 Comments

(CNS Business): Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) is changing the itinerary or three of its ships next year to avoid Falmouth Port in Jamaica, according to a report in the Jamaica Gleaner, even though the port was built through a partnership between RCCL and Port Authority of Jamaica. However, the news report makes no mention of the other ships belonging to Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, which are both owned by RCCL, some of which still appear to include Falmouth in their itineraries.

The Gleaner’s rather confusing article quotes Falmouth’s mayor, Colin Gager, as saying that the Allure of the Seas and one of Royal Caribbean’s other ships, as well as “Celebrity”, which appears to refer to one of Celebrity Cruises’ ships, “have decided to take their businesses elsewhere for the coming season and next year”.

Gager is cited as saying that “the pullout of the three vessels, which together bring in about 10,000 visitors per call to the port, will result in losses of about $5 million (Jamaican dollars) monthly”.

However, the newspaper’s claim that “three major cruise lines” have pulled out from “the Falmouth pier in Trelawny” does not appear to be supported by the rest of the article, and Jamaica’s Port Authority states that the Allure of the Seas, which carries around 6,000 passengers, will return to Falmouth in December 2018.

According to Gager, the ships are being pulled because “the cruise lines are concerned about visitor harassment, among other issues”, and he admitted “that visitor harassment has been an ongoing problem, with the conduct of tour bus operators and craft vendors leaving much to be desired”.

However, Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News suggests a different and more cynical reason for pulling the ships. Noting recent protests in Jamaica over environmentally destructive plans to further dredge the harbour so that two mega-ships can be in port at the same time, he said, “The question arises whether Royal Caribbean is pulling some of its ships from Falmouth to make a point with those resisting the cruise line’s plans for the port.”

Nevertheless, the report has raised some concern here in the Cayman Islands, where the government plans to partner with the cruise lines for a costly and controversial berthing facility.

Members of the local business community told CNS Business they believe that the cruise lines may commit to Cayman’s project in theory but will always ensure there is a clause in any deal with a destination to pull out if a port no longer suits their needs for whatever reason.

Others warned that, like Falmouth, unauthorised vendors are problematic at the George Town Harbour, and also worried that smaller operators and vendors could be squeezed out by the larger players if the port development here is ever completed.

Johann Moxam, an outspoken critic of the government’s plan for a cruise berthing facility, said that before government commits hundreds of millions of dollars of public money, it needs to pause and re-evaluate whether perceived benefits of mass cruise tourism are truly worth the costs and the risks.

Speaking to CNS Business, he said, “We would be foolish to proceed with this project without a careful examination of the risks to the country and, more importantly, the process we have used to determine that mass cruise tourism is worth this investment and is the top priority for the economy.”

He asked, “What prioritisation process has this and the previous government used to conclude that taking on this amount of debt is the number one national priority over investing in financial services, diversifying the local economy or addressing the burning social issues of substandard public education, inadequate adult training, lack of community programmes to deal at risk youth and escalating crime?

“Even as Cayman continues to post record cruise arrivals, why is the government potentially risking the financial stability of the country for the benefit a select few businesses who refuse to adapt their business model to the changing times? Anywhere else in the word, this would be government-sponsored corporate welfare,” Moxam added.

The cruise project remains extremely controversial for both economic and environmental reasons. In the consultation process that formed part of the environmental impact assessment for the project, those who took part came down three to one against the facility. Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has nonetheless insisted on pressing ahead on the basis that some Caymanian business owners depend enormously on cruise tourism and without the piers, cruise ships will stop coming.

Many people support Moxam’s sentiments that the benefits, even to tourism businesses, do not outweigh the risks, and there is still widespread belief in the community that the project remains at the top of government’s agenda to benefit only a small group of influential George Town merchants.

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Category: Cruise Tourism, Tourism

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Cruise tourism is up despite the doomsayers. So is stayover. Collect the money and be happy. No need to go into massive debt for eternity for a dock that will only finish off downtown as a place anyone would voluntarily go. Instead, put in some shade trees, free parking, and zoning for residential in upper floors. Let some life grow there. More concrete and asphalt is not the answer.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Pier or no pier, the unprofessional behavior of taxi, bus, vendor, etc. operators can and will have a negative effect of the business. Folks need to understand that pursuing (hassling) 1 reluctant customer usually results in pissing off 5 others. It is not worth it.

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  3. The Accountant says:

    Dear FCO

    Thank you for forcing the FFR on the Caymans it slows down very bad and expensive ideas like the port.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Where are the Caymans? Are they near the Virgins? I would like to have a dual vacation.

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      • Anonymous says:

        They are near the Rude Islands. Get over yourself.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Just use the correct name for my country and I will be fine.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Why are you complaining about legitimate checks and balances that have prevented us from plunging into this multi-generational financial folly? Thank God for the FCO!

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  4. Anonymous says:

    This cruise project is Kirk's pipe dream and best chance to save their dying business. Bay shore mall is empty which is why those merchants are desperate for the project to happen

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    • Anonymous says:

      That is the best example of govt sponsored corporate welfare the public is expected to bail out the rich!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Perhaps a better way to fill up Bayshore Mall is to freshen it up. After all a remnant from the 70's isn't anything to get off the ship for. As a matter of fact, the entire downtown area is way past due for a facelift, and at least a good scrubbing and some fresh paint.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I'm not sure what credentials Mr. Moxam has with respect to conducting cost benefit analyses, but as I recall, PWC carried out such an exercise and came to the conclusion that the economic benefits to be derived from the cruise project exceeded the environmental costs.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The plan designs and costs from the PWC document have changed significantly. The new plans and budget which still remain a secret will cost more than $350m far more than the costs estimated in the PWC Outline Business Case. This explains the secrecy and strategic decision to not consult the public by the government.

      Why are KPMG now contracted by government with drafting the financing model if the PWC report was the bible with all the answers and solutions on the way forward?

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