Carnival cruise line could play role in port project

Carnival Cruise Lines says it is “open to playing a role” in the development of new piers in George Town harbor. 

Premier Alden McLaughlin announced Wednesday that government plans to proceed with the project despite concerns over damage to coral reefs in the harbor. 

He said the next step would be consultation with the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the cruise lines over a funding model for the piers, expected to cost at least $150 million. 

He said the cruise lines must have “skin in the game” in order to guarantee passenger numbers over the life of the project. 

The company, whose ships account for roughly 60 percent of cruise ships visiting Cayman, tentatively welcomed the announcement on Thursday. 

“There is a benefit to our guests, and to the community, through the undertaking of any type of activity that modernizes our port of call and enhances the attractiveness of the destination for our guests onboard the ship,” Roger Frizzell, chief communications officer for Carnival, said Thursday in response to a series of questions on the Cayman port project. 

“We remain open, as always, to playing a role in these types of activities as a partner in the community,” he added. 

Mr. Frizzell did not respond directly to questions about whether the cruise line would make specific guarantees about passenger numbers. 

Royal Caribbean, the other major player in Cayman’s cruise industry, did not respond to requests for comment by press time. 

Michele Paige, president of The Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, said it would be a matter for the individual cruise lines to decide whether they want to be involved in building piers in Cayman and whether they are prepared to make commitments on passenger numbers. Ms. Paige said the FCCA is supportive of Grand Cayman finding an “environmentally friendly” way to develop a cruise pier. 

The final Outline Business Case, produced by PwC, on the port project has not yet been publicly released. 

The Cayman Compass understands it will not be released until Cabinet has formally ratified the decision to proceed with the port project, which could be several weeks away. 

The initial draft of the business case outlined a preferred model of partnering with a cruise line or consortium of cruise lines to build the dock. 

It states, “A cruise line or consortium of cruise lines could sign a long-term agreement (say 20 years) with the Cayman Islands Government to design, build and control the two piers.” 

The report says the basis of the deal would be for construction costs to be refunded through a mixture of berthing fees (equivalent to the fees currently paid to tender operators) of around $5 per passenger, and a share of the $14 “head tax” collected by the Port Authority on every cruise passenger who comes through the terminal. 

“In order to make the partnership viable, government would need to, as a minimum, contribute a portion of future head tax revenues. The cruise lines would therefore be greatly motivated to maximize the use of the piers to better profit from their investment,” it states. 

In an earlier interview with the Compass, Giora Israel, senior vice president of Carnival’s global port and destination development, said Cayman needs cruise piers if it wants to stay in the business. He said Carnival would be interested in the project if it made economic sense for the company. 

He added, “The question of whether or not piers should be built? We are way beyond that. Anyone who questions that has to question their understanding of this business. 

“Whether you want cruise ships or cruise passengers in your country or not is a different matter. That’s a perfectly legitimate question and a legitimate decision for the government to make. But if you want to be viable as a cruise destination, then a pier is critical.” 

carnival liberty at cayman
A Carnival cruise ship docks in George Town harbor.


  1. So that everyone is on the same page: Giora Israel, senior vice president of Carnival’s global port and destination development, said Cayman needs cruise piers if it wants to stay in the business.
    So , it’s a need. We have been true to our business interest , expressing to the people that it has never been greed . We are not trying to destroy anything , because the evidence is that it is dying or dead . I didn’t say that, our Deputy Director of the Environment Mr. Tim Austin said that. I agree with him. The world’s scientists are saying that it is climate change. So should we keep pretending? Should we pretend that the sargasso weed is not on the 7 mile beach? I have never seen that amount of weed in my life. Someone in the stay over business should be cleaning it up. Because your guests can’t go swimming. Do you care? We could make it into fertilizer.

  2. This sounds like the Cruise line might only be interested in the cruise ship dock, if they can use it for 20 years without paying any head tax to the government for 20 years. In 20 years the cruise line would have made their investment back, and the destruction of the environment would also be working in that 20 year because of winds and currents. So at the end of the 20 years , what would we have? Wise up Mr Premier.

  3. Interesting comment from Giora Israel – He said Carnival would be interested in the project if it made economic sense for the company.

    Based on all the other projects he has headed in the recent past that means securing exclusive docking rights for Carnival and their associated brands in return for a substantial contribution to the costs.

    That would probably be the best solution because it would simplify both the contractual arrangements and the design of the dock.

  4. I have a feeling this is only the beginning.

    Once the CBF is officially confirmed in cabinet you will see each cruise line lining up (just not in as long of a line as the tenders cause) to be a part of this much needed project.

    The amount of Caymanians whose livelihoods depend on cruise tourism cannot be underestimated. We are at a point in time where to continue at all, much less competitively, we must have a berthing facility. To think otherwise is a decision to set Cayman into a dangerous downward spiral.

    Moving ahead with this project will create jobs and opportunities for Caymanians and it is up to proponents for and opponents of the project to get together to make sure that Caymanian companies and individuals are the ones to benefit going forward.

  5. This is all still just talk, being open to playing a role doesn’t really show interest in actually doing it. I am not against the piers, but I don’t like the idea of a lot of marine habitat destruction. Which begs to question why GT is the only option being considered, in lieu of places where the water is deeper like out east and would not need to be dredged so much. With properly designed upland development it might even be better the doing it in GT and maybe even cheaper, but it would hurt all the cruise dependent businesses in in GT, However they could also move to the new fancier location. Could it be political promises or a financial interest in it only being in that area. I also find it interesting that the same people who fought so hard against the EE Pier idea saying it was to damaging to the environment are so supportive of this, however that could be just because it was on their opponents watch.

  6. @ Jonathon Barnes

    I think you will find that the queue of cruise lines trying to get in on this will come down to Carnival (who own numerous other brands) and Royal Caribbean. Any other players are too small to consider getting involved. At the end of the day I think Carnival will be the winner and that will let Royal Caribbean drop Grand Cayman, which is already a bit of a mismatch with their current business plans.

    @ Michael Davis

    There is another alternative. The cruise lines are now increasingly moving towards dedicated resorts rather than simple island drop offs so why not give them one? Can you think of a better way to boost the economy of the Brac than the creation of an Amber Cover style resort out there? It would bring with it the employment, investment and infrastructure improvements that everyone there seems to want.