Editorial for August 16: Missing the boat

The world’s most glorious cruise
ship, the Oasis of the Seas, stops in Jamaica. It stops in Mexico. It passes
literally within sight of Grand Cayman. But it doesn’t stop here.

When that ship’s sister ship, the
Allure of the Seas, is launched later this year, it will do the same thing –
bypass Grand Cayman.

Not that long ago, Cayman was one
of the hottest cruise destinations in the Caribbean. Had it not been for
Hurricane Ivan, Grand Cayman would have almost assuredly surpassed 2 million
cruise visitors in 2004.

Six years later, after a steady
decline in cruise passengers, we’ve learned that Cayman will see a significant
further reduction next year, all because there is no cruise berthing available

We can’t say we weren’t warned.

Royal Caribbean cruises has
consistently said that it would not bring the Oasis-class ships here until we
have cruise berthing facilities because it would simply take too long to
off-load passengers and crew – up to 8,000 of them – by tender boat.  And since the Oasis-class ships are replacing
other smaller ships that used to come here, Cayman is missing the boat – literally.

In better times, it might not
matter. But with Cayman’s economy still reeling from the effects of the global
recession, the loss of more cruise passengers is going to sting.

Make no mistake: As a result of the
continued reduction of cruise calls, more downtown shops will close. People
will lose jobs. More expatriates will leave the Island, continuing the contraction
of the population. Less money will circulate in the local economy. Government
revenues will decline.

This is the price we pay for taking
so long to complete a cruise berthing facility. Cruise lines were telling us at
least five years ago what would happen if we didn’t build it. Now that what
they said would happen is happening, no one should be surprised.

Since infrastructure
of this kind takes time to build, Cayman expects falling cruise passenger numbers
for at least several more years. For those who think Cayman doesn’t need cruise
tourism, just look at what is happening in George Town and will
continue to happen.