In case you had to navigate through traffic congestion, or otherwise encountered unwonted crowds, the root cause is probably, as you may suspect, the remarkable number of cruise ship passengers disembarking into downtown George Town — an expected 13,161 from four vessels, to be precise.
The bad news is that is a lot of people, taking over our streets and causing us “locals” to feel inconvenienced. The good news is that is a lot of people, swarming into our shops, purchasing our services and supporting our local economy.
Most of us are already quite well aware of this, but during these already-stressful last moments of preparation before the biggest holiday of the year, now may be a timely reminder to treat our guests with unwavering politeness, and, indeed, genuine joy that they have chosen to spend part of their winter vacation (and, hopefully, a healthy portion of their Christmas money) in our fair Cayman Islands.
Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, Grand Cayman will play host to even more cruise passengers — 14,310 from five ships. Next week, the number of cruise visitors will surpass the 10,000 mark on three separate days, including Wednesday, Dec. 30, when five cruise ships are expected to arrive, carrying 16,642 passengers. That will rank among the busiest days for cruise tourism in Cayman in 2015, providing a fitting ending to a year that has been dominated by burgeoning discussions about finally building a cruise berthing facility in George Town harbor.
Critics of the government’s policy of pursuing the project may take the occasion afforded by this spike in cruise activity to protest against the proposed dock, saying, for instance, “If you think traffic is bad now, just you wait until the dock is built!” Certainly, they couldn’t hope for an atmosphere more conducive to their arguments, than the aggravated minds of motor vehicle operators stuck in a traffic jam.
And there is some truth to what they say. Generally speaking, gridlock is a symptom of inadequate infrastructure. Simply put, Cayman’s road system, as configured, can’t accommodate that many cruise tourists and that many vehicles, at the same time, without the occurrence of delays. If the cruise dock does succeed in attracting more cruise visitors, then traffic problems will surely worsen — that is, in the absence of improvements to our transportation infrastructure.
That’s what makes it so important for our leaders to steer through, not just the cruise dock itself, but the parallel project to enhance the road network in and around downtown George Town — which began with the much-needed widenings of Godfrey Nixon Way and Smith Road, is continuing with the Dart Group’s expansion of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway and will eventually include adding capacity to the Linford Pierson Highway. In brief, the road improvements are vital to the success of the cruise dock.
For the time being, though, and for the next couple of weeks, we would do well — when confronted with crowds — to remember our manners, our sense of Caymanian hospitality, and the benefits to our country represented by each cruise passenger we encounter.