Big drop in 2011 cruise calls

TOPLibertySeasLEAD

A
26 per cent reduction in cruise calls in 2011 has George Town retailers
concerned.

“This
is the last thing we needed,” said Kirk Freeport managing director Gerry
Kirkconnell, who learned about the reductions last week when he received the
information from media houses selling advertising for on-board cruise
publications.  

Royal
Caribbean, Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises will make a combined 54 fewer
cruise calls to Grand Cayman in the one-year period ending 31 January, 2012,
than they did in the
previous 12 months.

The
reduction represents a 26 per cent decrease in calls from ships from the three
cruise lines. Liberty of the Seas is scheduled to make only four calls to Grand
Cayman in 2011 after being scheduled to make 24 calls in 2010. Celebrity
Century is scheduled to make 26 fewer calls during 2011 than the 36 it was
scheduled to make this year.

In
terms of passenger capacity, the reduction in cruise calls will bring a 23 per
cent decrease in potential cruise visitors.

Mr.
Kirkconnell said that because he ships’ having fewer calls are the ones that
brought some of the highest spending passengers, Cayman would actually lose
more than 23 per cent of
its cruise spending.

“Liberty was our biggest ship,” he said, speaking about
passenger spending. “We’re not only losing x-amount of ships, we’re losing the
best ships.”

The big drop in cruise calls will force Kirk Freeport to
close some of its stores, Mr. Kirkconnell said, adding that one store, Far Away
Places, has already been closed this summer. He said some other stores would be
combined into one, resulting in additional closures.

Michael Jappert, vice president of operations from another
of Cayman’s large duty free retailers, Island Companies Ltd, said the
development concerns him, especially considering the ships involved.

“Those ships tend to perform better than others,” he said.
“They provide a significant portion of our business.”

However, Mr. Jappert said Island Companies doesn’t
anticipate closing any of its stores and plans on opening four new stores in
the next 60 to 90 days.

He said Island Companies’ strategy is to enhance the
shopping experience for those customers who do walk through the doors of their
stores.

“When you have less people, you have to do more with
them,” he said.

The reduction of cruise calls comes on the heels of Royal
Caribbean launching the world’s biggest passenger ship, the Oasis of the Seas,
last December. Its sister ship, the Allure of the Seas, is scheduled to be
launched in December. Royal Caribbean has previously stated that it would not
bring those ships, which are replacing smaller ships on its Caribbean
itineraries, to port in Cayman until there are docking facilities here. The two
ships can carry more than 8,000 passengers and crew each, and Royal Caribbean
has said it would take too long to try and off-load them in Cayman using tender
boats.

Founding member of the Association for the Advancement of
Cruise Tourism Brynley Davies said the development shouldn’t come as a surprise
to anyone because Royal Caribbean had made its position clear for a long time.

“We are paying the price for dragging our feet in getting
a cruise berthing facility,” he said. “We’re moving in the right direction now;
we just need to get it done.”

In addition to the off-loading issue, Mr. Davies said
Royal Caribbean believes Cayman’s current port facility cannot offer a
reasonable guest experience.

“In the ports where Oasis-class ships are stopping, Royal Caribbean
has also required operators to provide enhanced services, including moving the
security screening off the ship to a location pier side,” he said. “This is all
related to easing the movement of 6,000 guests and 2,000 crew and providing a
positive guest experience.”

Mr. Davies said the Oasis-class ships have Western
Caribbean itineraries that take them literally within sight of Grand Cayman,
but they won’t stop here.

 “I think this news
should come as a wake-up call to those who believe that the cruise lines will
continue to come to Cayman because we have a good geographical location or that
we can dictate terms of business to them,” he said. “Oasis has been a massive
hit with the ports it has visited, with reports that spending per head has gone
up significantly when the ship is in town.

Cayman is now the last significant cruise port without a
berthing facility and this news should focus people’s attention on how badly we
need to support the government’s work in moving this essential project forward
before we become a minor player in this important tourism sector.”

Back-bench legislator Cline Glidden Jr., who heads up the
government’s committee overseeing the cruise berthing project, said that
although the reduction of cruise calls by Royal Caribbean was expected, he
believes it’s only temporary based on discussions with the cruise line.

“They’ve said that once we are able to get a berthing
facility, they’re committed to sending their ships here.”

As for the progress on the berthing facility, Mr. Glidden
said contract negotiations are on-going.

“We continue to get closer to what we see as a final
agreement,” he said. “It’s very complex. This is the first public/private
partnership of this size – about $200 million.”

Mr. Glidden said the goal is for Cayman to host the
Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s annual conference in November 2012 and
that the government proposes to open the cruise berthing facility at that time.

He said it
has been estimated the facility will take 18 to 24 months to complete.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. So let’s ruin our sea environment and possibly SMB to put in a berthing facility so people who don’t care about our country can come and spend a few hours gawking at jewellery they can’t afford and congesting our streets. Since when do the cruise lines own the Cayman Islands?

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  2. Well.. in a sense they do- Next to finance, Tourism is #2, if you don’t provide revenue and stay competitive your going to bury yourself, development is part of that.

    Show me another way to protect your revenue stream, Cayman is entirely dependent on outside investment…..there’s only so much rum that can be exported.

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  3. This was 100% predictable, and 100% preventable. They dragged their (expletive) in building a new cruise ship port ( is the new one even started yet ??? ) even though other caribbean islands had fantastic ports for years where the cruise ships could pull right up and dock. They were warned by the cruise ship operators if they didn’t build them, they would be bypassed. But for political reasons, or just plain arrogance, they ignored the warnings and let the pathetic little shuttle boats operate back and forth, bringing 25 guests at a time when the cruise ship held 3,000. And now, WHO pays the price for their ignorance? The individual merchants. Shame on the government for not having the foresight to avert this.

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