The Cayman Islands Tourism Association wants cruise ships to be permitted to open their casinos and limited retail at evening time while on anchor in Grand Cayman.
‘The primary purpose of this is to enable ships to stay longer and for them to be able to offer ‘over night’ ports of call – as they will be doing in the next few weeks due to cancellations of Mexico visits,’ President of the private sector tourism organisation Mr. Stephen Broadbelt said.
The CITA plans on presenting this proposal to the next elected Government after the May elections.
Gambling is illegal in the Cayman Islands. In keeping with this law, cruise ships must also close their casinos while in Cayman waters.
The CITA has attached the following conditions to its proposal:
Casinos on board may not open during business hours of 9am to 5pm or other times agreed by the cruise lines and the Cayman Islands Government;
Allow limited retail operations that do not compete with on-shore retailers, such as their retail photography services;
Cruise lines must agree to operating extended evening hours for tender services if the ship is staying overnight or late into the evening;
Casinos may only open while on anchor – it would not apply to future ships using berthing;
No residents would be allowed on the ships while casinos were open;
Permission would only be granted to cruise lines on a ship by ship basis – local vessels would not be permitted.
Mr. Broadbelt said, ‘If this could be done quickly it could really help out the cruise lines at this time and help tourism business locally as non-gambling cruise passengers would be able to stay on shore longer and have a greater economic impact.
‘If cruise ships were to stay into the evening or overnight, many businesses would benefit: restaurants and bars, retailers, taxi drivers, tourist attractions and other related businesses.’
Because of the outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico, several cruise lines have temporarily suspended cruise calls to Mexico. Grand Cayman will gain some extra cruise calls because of this.
For instance, Carnival Inspiration has extended its visits to two-day calls during the month of May 2009 and will stay in port until 6pm (instead of 2pm) on its normal days, go offshore while its casinos open and return the following day at 7am and depart at 3pm.
CITA says it is opposed to allowing casinos to be established on the island and agrees with and respects the traditions and values of the people of the Cayman Islands.
‘While we appreciate that there are no casinos on the island,’ Mr. Broadbelt said, ‘the cruise ships’ operations doesn’t affect anyone on-island if their casinos open while at anchor,’ adding that no residents would be allowed on the ships anyway.
He said he believes it’s more respectful to have casinos open while ships are on anchor rather than if they were tied up on berthing, in which case they could be considered to be physically landed.
‘If it’s made available while ships are at anchor then that’s more respectful to the people who don’t want to see casinos here,’ he said.
Mr. Broadbelt said one of the reasons the ships leave early is so they can get their casinos open when they leave port.
‘It’s not all about the almighty dollar but it could be something we could offer them now and it could prove to be viable for later on,’ he said.
Mr. Broadbelt said allowing ships to stay in port at night could be a way of gaining a little extra from cruise tourism which has been declining for some time.
He believes the ship crew members would be especially eager to get off the ship if it was staying into the evening in Grand Cayman.
‘These ships have got hundreds and hundreds of crew and any port where the ship overnight they’re off. They are going out getting away from the ship and spending money in bars and restaurants,’ he said.
Asked whether there could be any safety concerns with passengers using tender boats to get back on the ships at night, Mr. Broadbelt said it would probably be necessary to invest in additional lighting at the cruise terminals.
But, done with proper lighting and navigational markers, using tender boats at night would be considered fine under normal sea conditions.