Firstly, let me declare that I am directly affected by the cruise industry in Cayman. I work for a water sports operator so I know firsthand how the Island is effected by us not having a proper berthing facility. I used to work five days a week until the last year or so when the calls on Grand Cayman dropped significantly, clearly because of a lack of proper dockage. I now work three to four days per week depending on the volumes of people arriving to the Island. My employer made a decision not to layoff anyone but rather to give us reduced work per week so that we still had some income to meet our obligations.
With that in mind, I’ve had a lot of time to consider the re-emergence of the proposal to put the port in South Sound. I’ve listened to the talk shows, read the blogs and had a lot of time to contemplate. I’ve summarised all of my pros/cons below:
The tourist experience in Cayman is very much congested. As part of a training exercise we were taken to four ports including Cayman, upon arrival the wait to get on the tenders took at least an hour or two off our time in Grand Cayman and many of the crew opted not to disembark because it wasn’t worth the hassle. Having said that, once we did get ashore it was very much congested and chaotic. In comparison, when we disembarked in Roatan it was not congested at all; all of the buses were organised and there was no sense of confusion and I got a MUCH better impression in Roatan than Cayman.
This leads me to my second point – we seem to be pushing for the port to be in town, where we as a populace are used to it being located – not because of it being the most logical, but simply because it is where it has always been. If we were to relocate the cruise port to South Sound, we would remove it from the heavy shipping traffic and industrial town riddled with banks, lawyers and accounting firms, to a more laid back location which is in the centre of the Island with quick links to George Town, SMB, North Sound and East End. We all know the Go East initiative could be revived by this, especially with a new beach club in Bodden Town on the old Englestad estate across from the Bodden Town Police Station.
If the captains are correct and this can be used year round and we don’t lose any days due to inclement weather the Island will benefit greatly each year. Surely the added revenue will again help to bridge any shortfalls in our budget. Additionally, we will be able to accommodate the new large vessels like the Oasis and Epic, which currently pass us by.
If the Government were to acquire all of the swamp land by Old Crewe Road this would be the perfect area for it to connect to all of our bypass roads. This would also give Government the space it needs to accommodate large numbers of cruise visitors at one time and all of the accompanying taxis and buses. If the locals in South Sound are worried about traffic, it could completely bypass this roadway and be directed to the Linford Pierson and the South Sound Bypass that had been discussed years ago.
I understand from the talk shows that there will be a large quantity of fill extracted from the cruise basin. Could this not be used to complete the Eastern Arterial bypass and any other bypass roads that the Islands need? Even if the roads are not built at this time we could “rough” them in and at least pave the way for future generations and needs, but we may never have an opportunity like this again.
With a much nicer cruise experience we will begin to get cruise passengers who return as stay over guests like we used to receive in the past when town was not such a busy location. Additionally if we move the port to South Sound we will take some of the traffic away from our main bread winner – Seven Mile Beach and improve the experiences for the stayover guests as well.
Public support – very few projects in Cayman get the public’s support like how this seems to be receiving. The Caymanian sea captains are all on board and many otherwise environmentalists are also on board as they see the need the Islands have for a proverbial shot in the arm for the cruise industry.
Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on the matter. I implore Cayman to continue national debate on this important matter. I’ve been having a hard time making ends meet, but I’m glad to have the ability to have a job, but it will be nice in the future when our arrivals do pick back up and I can again start saving to realise my dream of one day owning a home.