Hotels, restaurants profit from Pirates Week, seek better coordination

Hotels and restaurants close to the George Town waterfront reported a successful Pirates Week, although some said better coordination was necessary between businesses and the official celebration committee. 

An informal survey of hospitality outlets revealed overall satisfaction with the Nov. 12-22 event, indicating an equal – and often better – turnout than last year. 

“When Pirates Week is happening, it is on,” said Margaritaville Manager Fred Richardson. “It’s like a light switch.” 

The Harbour Drive bar and restaurant, he said, had started “a little early” with a Wednesday evening welcome, then joined the general celebration with a Thursday happy hour. 

“The pirates were the highlight of the week. We had more than 1,000 of them, and a dance party with musicians Epic Day,” Mr. Richardson said. “It was the single best night of Pirates Week ever.” 

Next door at Breezes by the Bay, new owner Luigi Moxam said he had just managed to get his doors open in time for Friday night happy hour, frantically completing final fitting out, staffing and organization. 

“I think it went pretty well,” he said. At Breezes, which shut its doors in April and which Mr. Moxam acquired only in early November, “it was pretty much about just getting the business open. We made it and there were high fives all around.” 

Mr. Moxam also owns Cayman Cabana across the street on the waterfront and said the special family-style dinner had drawn a good Friday-evening crowd. 

“People really enjoyed it,” he said, noting that overall “the vibe downtown” was “all about entertainment.” 

He had heard “a lot of both positive and negative feedback,” but recognized the Pirates Week Committee had done its best. “They had to play with what they were given, play the hand dealt to them,” he said, but “they could have done a little better. There is room for improvement next year.” 

Tom Mason, general manager at Comfort Suites, said the 128-room hotel had done nicely in terms of occupancy and customer satisfaction with daily rates. 

Blackbeard the pirate, he said, actually lived at Comfort Suites during the festival. 

“He’s stayed with us for 10 years now,” Mr. Mason said, and commands a hearty presence at poolside. “He’s in Stingers and we do drink specials, serving our rum and coke. 

“We saw an increase in occupancy and rates over last year,” he said. “We were absolutely thrilled with the event and with the participation. 

“We saw a broad cross-section of people who came to visit Cayman and enjoy the revelries of Pirates Week.” 

The small, tight-knit groups of guests were larger than last year, he said, and had come largely from the U.S. East Coast, with one particular group from Florida. 

“My guests commented on how they enjoyed the Cayman food and their interactions with the Cayman people,” Mr. Mason said. 

Area Managing Director for the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa Morty Valldejuli said the hotel was too far from downtown to register much Pirates Week activity, but “we get two rooms, maybe three rooms, five rooms at maximum, but we’re pretty full, and that’s pretty normal.” 

North Church Street’s Lobster Pot restaurant was swamped, according to General Manager Jens Pankalla. 

“On Friday night and Saturday night, especially for the fireworks,” he said, “we had to turn people away.” 

The first Saturday, he said “was big, but not as big as the previous evening,” and the week was busier than normal. 

“We probably did 150 covers [meals] on Friday and on the Saturday following the fireworks,” while serving “about 90 covers” the other nights. 

“It’s about 25 percent more than usual,” Mr. Pankalla said, pointing out that most patrons had been local families. “They’re smart enough to book early, and then the tourists come along and realize they have no chance.” 

Mr. Moxam observed that the Pirates Week Committee had 11 months to organize the event, and that local businesses, in their turn, needed to support the panel’s efforts, “getting everyone on board, and for the most part,” he said, “we are happy. Let’s not forget how cool George Town harbor and Hog Sty Bay is, just to walk around. 

“Last year, however,” he said “might’ve been a little better as far as the entertainment that was brought in. There is a decent budget for Caribbean entertainment and they could do a better job. There isn’t a lot of proper marketing. There just has to be whole different level as we come out of the summertime.” 

He promised a grand Breezes by the Bay opening, however, in “the next couple of weeks,” while Margaritaville’s Mr. Richardson said he would meet Mr. Moxam and Hard Rock Café managers, seeking to draw mid-week clientele. 

Both looked forward to the proposed George Town revitalization project, accompanying construction of cruise ship terminals, but acknowledged it was still some distance away: The revitalization, Mr. Richardson said, was crucial, “but I will tell you, we’re not going to sit around and wait for it.” 

“When Pirates Week is happening, it is on. It’s like a light switch.”

Fred Richardson, Margaritaville manager 

Pirates Week brings out pirates in droves and helps drive tourism and restaurant business to downtown George Town. - PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

Pirates Week brings out pirates in droves and helps drive tourism and restaurant business to downtown George Town. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

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  1. It was good to know that the massive amount of people enjoyed themselves. Plus the thousands of people enjoyed themselves even with bars and restaurants running out of space and people couldn’t get in because of the crowds of people. So can we say that thousands of people were a win-win situation for George Town ?
    So is this not proof that George Town will come back from the dead if we get massive amounts of people from cruise lines and that they will help us desperately?
    We need this pier years ago for so many reasons, lets stop making excuses and get it done.