Cruise giant Carnival has signed a multi-billion dollar contract to build four “next generation” cruise ships that will each accommodate more than 6,000 guests and are unlikely to use tenders.
The cruise line has followed Royal Caribbean, which launched its Oasis class ships in 2009, in commissioning larger ships.
Supporters of a cruise dock in Cayman say the move will have implications for the island if it does not go ahead with the port project.
Robert Hamaty, of the Association for the Advancement of Cruise Tourism, said the Cayman Islands was already missing out on the 5,400-passenger Oasis class ships, which do not tender, and cruise past Cayman on their way to Jamaica. He said the new Carnival ships, the largest ever built, would also bypass Cayman.
He said, “I am not playing games with anybody. It is a fact that these cruise ships are not going to tender. This is the way the cruise industry is going and we are going to lose out.”
Carnival has a fleet of 24 ships worldwide and has not said where it will deploy the larger vessels.
The proposed new cruise dock would be able to accommodate two ships of Oasis class size and two other cruise ships.
Royal Caribbean and Carnival collectively account for around 80 percent of cruise passenger arrivals in Grand Cayman.
Stewart Chiron, a US based cruise industry expert who runs The Cruise Guy website, said the trend towards larger ships appeared to be continuing.
“The ships are getting bigger and there are an increasing number of ports to choose from. The new Carnival ships, like Royal Caribbean, will be forced to bypass Cayman as their ships will have too many passengers to tender. A cruise pier is imperative for Grand Cayman’s future. Cayman has worked hard improving the cruise passengers’ experience but it’s not enough.”
Mr. Hamaty and other business owners are urging government to proceed with the dock despite environmental and economic concerns recently highlighted in a consultant’s report.
The report, produced by marine engineers Baird, predicted extensive damage to coral reefs in the harbor and estimated economic losses of up to $9 million a year for water sports business in the harbor.
A petition to stop the project, launched earlier this month, had amassed almost 2,000 signatures by press time on Wednesday.
The Cayman Islands Tourism Association said in a statement that it is consulting with members and reviewing the reports before taking a position on the issue.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said in a statement in the Legislative Assembly Friday, “I acknowledge that the environmental assessment has identified several issues, so the viability and economic benefits of cruise berthing must be understood and carefully weighed against those concerns.”