Cruise tourism Carnival threatens pullout

A battle is brewing between tender operators and cruise ship operators in the wake of Cayman Marine’s price increase for transporting passengers to and from vessels in George Town harbour. 

While both sides say they hope for negotiations to find an amicable resolution, lines appear to be hardening as each blames the other. Meanwhile, Cayman’s cruise arrivals have seen an overall decline since 2006 and may be increasingly at risk due to this dispute, industry officials fear. 

Cayman Marine Services, which operates about 16 tenders in the George Town harbour, has proposed a 75-cent price rise per passenger in three phases throughout 2013 – the company’s first increase in five years – intended to address rising costs for labour, fuel, maintenance and materials. The initial 25-cent rise started on 1 January. 

Carnival Cruise Lines has taken exception to the idea, and while the company declined direct comment, Michele Paige, president of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, said the industry is “not happy” with the increases, suggesting it could “drastically affect” the number of ships and passengers arriving in Grand Cayman. 

“The increase in tendering fees is going to severely affect the amount of tonnage coming into Cayman,” she said. “I’m not in a position to speak on behalf of individuals and members, only for the industry, but the industry is troubled. We have broken this down for the cruise ships, and we are looking to make things better and we need to start working on this.” 

Adrian Briggs, who operates Cayman Marine Services, declined to discuss details of the dispute, saying only that they “are in the process of trying to negotiate this”. 

“This is only a proposal and nothing is set in stone. We are always open to negotiations,” he said, observing that Cayman Marine, the cruise lines and the cruise association had always reached accord in the past. 

While calling for negotiations, Ms Paige made clear the potential impact of the price rises. “This is a business and we are here to make a profit,” Ms Paige said. “If you have a 3,000-passenger ship, that is an extra $2,500 – and that doesn’t include the crew. If there are 50 trips per year, that is $150,000, and that erodes profit.” 

Carnival Cruise lines has 227 arrivals scheduled for Grand Cayman in 2013. On Friday, Government Information Services announced the company had decided to cut Cayman services due to redeployment of ships to alternate routes and the lack of berthing facilities, citing a “desire on the part of cruise lines to not have certain ships serviced by cruise tender”. 

Vance Gulliksen, public relations executive at Carnival, declined to comment, saying only “since the FCCA already commented, we’re going to defer to them on this issue”. 

He would not be drawn on reports that the company had threatened to withdraw from Cayman all its 2013 arrivals. Cruise schedules are set at least two years in advance. However, with tickets having been sold and contracts having been signed, altering an itinerary becomes difficult. 

Ms Paige suggested Cayman’s lack of docking facilities had already created problems.  

“Because Cayman is a tendering port, the number of arrivals is already lower than elsewhere and already the lines are making less revenue every day,” she said. “Cayman has said nothing to us, only that they need to offset costs. The Cayman Islands are our partner and we look forward to working with them for improvements in facilities. Now is the time to move forward.” 

Mr. Briggs’ Cayman Marine has operated since 1975, moving roughly 1.4 million passengers between cruise ships and the port in 2011 and nearly the same amount in 2012. While the 75-cent increase amounts to only 17 per cent since the previous adjustment five years ago, Ms Paige criticised Cayman Marine’s cursory notification of the rise. 

“They did not decide this in consultations and gave it within less than 30 days. It will have a drastic effect,” she said.  

Mr. Briggs declined to comment on the stern reactions among cruise lines and the cruise association, saying only that they had always found “common ground” previously.  

The next increase is scheduled for June and the last for October. 

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13 COMMENTS

  1. this would be a huge blow to the island if ANY section of our tourism industry pulled out. The government is getting 25 dollars a head for each person, that is huge. The tender service bringing in 1.4 million people a year (not to mention other lines use their own boats to tender) equals…. 2,600,000,000 a year to the government!

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  2. Huge blow to the Island? Caymanians deserve what is happening to them now. The WRITING WAS ON THE WALL All those Top Dog Caymanians with their big business who was hell bent on destroying the Premier with foreigners cause they wanted to drain the country dry, will see now who was running things.
    See which one of you can bring back business to the Island like the Premier; yet you stood by and had a crucifiction in Christmas. Pay the consequences.

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  3. Hunter

    Get a grip old man. Bush had as much to do with this as I did and if you think he’s got a solution to this problem, it will be his first.

    As for the downturn in this type of situation, dont get your nickers in a knot about that either. There are many stops available forn these cruise ships and we should do whatever we can to ensure it stays that way. Rising labour costs as a reason to increase the fees is a joke. Who are they paying more to?

    So whatever amount of butt kissing we have to do, lets do it and do it now before somebody else takes something from us. We do not hold a monopoly on beaches and good weather. The Caribbean is full of places like this.

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  4. We are way behind the times as it is in terms of offering good service a cruise ship dock. Tendering is not good service — it is extremely inconvenient. The cruise ship business for Cayman is extremely precarious as it is — to suggest ANY increase is INSANE. We’re lucky they’re still coming; many are not. What do you want to do — Drive them away too???

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  5. The Cruise lines should just stop coming to Cayman, the passengers will most likely not miss it and a lot of Caymanian people seem to think Cayman would be better off without the Cruise ships anyway..

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  6. The finger piers could have, should have and would have happened years ago in a timely manner if it were not for the powers to be to line their pockets with help from the other island nations to not let it happen. It was a remarkable in your face abuse of power. First loss was Royal Caribbean who actually get off the ships and spend money now Carnival. GC decline is now going non-linear. No worries until you see it go exponentially south when you tax expats and increase permits 169%.

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  7. Cruise ships face cost presures and are predatory in nature. They will choose the ports of call where there is money in it for them. In this day and age when cruiseships market to the middle/low class tourists (ie. 300-400 per week all-in) Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Cuba (soon come) will always be at the top of the lists simply because they are cheap destinations. Furthermore, those countries will bend backwards to please the cruise ships.

    If you try to compare us to those destinations that i mentioned earlier, what is it that we offer that’s exceptionally different other than Sting Ray City? The answer is nothing! Don’t tell me culture, people, beaches etc. Those countries also have beutiful cultures, people, beaches etc.

    If we want cruise ships here we better compete with low cost jurisdictions. Reduce taxation on business and allow the businesses to pass the savings to the ships. At that point cruiseships will care less that there are no piers for them to dock. If there is money in it for them they will come, don’t be fooled.

    You don’t believe me? Waive all of their fees in 2014 and you’ll see 20 ships in port in no time (including the ones that were too big to come here).

    My 2 cents.

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  8. Please stop people quoting flawed math.

    0.75 Cents x 3000 passengers = 2,250 (Not 2,500)

    But the price increases are set in 3 phases 25c now, 50c in June and 75c in October

    Or week 23 and week 40

    Hence 23 x 750 = 17,250 (first 23 weeks at 25c)
    17 x 1,500 = 25,500
    (17 weeks at the 50cent rate from June through Oct)
    12 x 2,250 = 27,000

    I get a total of 69,750… NOT 150,000 – and I have used 52 weeks rather than 50!

    Now maybe she means 2014

    50 x 2250 = 112,500 Hmmm, Still not 150,000

    Even if the figures are CI vs US it still comes out to 135,000….

    In context, Carnival cruises START from 229 per person.
    so based on that figure – 35.7 MILLION per year – I have no figures for the AVERAGE price but with many of the suites running 3x the above, that figure would easily double.

    So, the 2014 figure is less than a third of 1 percent of that 36M. Hardly a DRASTIC effect. If you give someone a 0.3 percent payrise that wouldn’t even cover inflation…

    Ms Paige, Please write out on the blackboard 100 times, I must check my math more carefully.

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  9. NJ: I’m an American cruiser one of the middle class dingos cruiselines cater to today that I hope you don’t think is also low class… and most cruisers would in fact miss Cayman.

    Apart from the Stingrays, a lot of people come for the rum …and some nearly stay because of it, and a few even for the kitschy Hell. By far, though, the biggest selling point going for you is the safety.

    Or, rather, the perceived safety. Cayman has crime like everywhere else, but George Town is clean and the folks walking to work in the banks all the US fatcats keep their money are wearing business suits.

    On the other hand, among cruisers, the common complaints about elsewhere is the poverty and filth. Roatan is poor and dirty – Coxen Hole trash cans are the nearest empty lot. Jamaica is poor and dirty, and half the people who get off the ship are offered drugs. Belize is poor and dirty – and it takes a half hour to tender to the dock at full, kidney-jarring speed, and never go outside the gate!!!.

    Mexico? The number one question here is: Why would we even get off the boat? Won’t we get shot? They’re either worried about the drug cartels or, once having been there, concerned about the Mexican Marines patrolling the tourist zones to keep them away.

    …yes, most Americans are idiots too eager to fret and never satisfied with anything.

    If I could give some suggestions as an outsider … build a pier … learn to drive on the proper side of the street … open up the bars a little earlier on cruise days.

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