Jamaica port issue concerns Cayman

Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas towers over a shopping area at Falmouth Port in Jamaica. The cruise line is dropping Falmouth from some of its itineraries. - PHOTO: VICKI WHEATON

News that cruise giant Royal Caribbean has pulled Jamaica’s purpose-built port at Falmouth from multiple vacation itineraries has sparked concern about proposals for a new dock in Grand Cayman.

One of the key principles of the long-discussed plan to build new cruise berthing facilities in George Town harbor has been to secure cruise line involvement in the hope that this would guarantee passenger numbers.

However, Royal Caribbean’s significant financial investment in the Falmouth port does not appear to have stopped it from pulling some of its ships from the port, the Jamaica Gleaner reported Friday.

Citing Falmouth’s Mayor Colin Gager, the newspaper reported that three ships, including the Oasis class Allure of The Seas, would be taking their businesses elsewhere for the coming season and next year. Mr. Gager told the Gleaner the cruise lines are concerned about harassment of visitors, among other issues.

Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett suggested in a different news report that the issue affected only the Allure of the Seas and Royal Caribbean’s new vessel, Symphony of the Seas.

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Robert Hamaty, owner of Tortuga Rum in Cayman, which also has a store at the Falmouth Port, said the development was concerning but should not prevent Cayman from pushing ahead with plans for its own dock.

“It is very sad as Royal Caribbean and the Jamaica government invested into the port,” he said.

“I am told the customer experience is not good. Passengers are not happy and feel they are being harassed. There is no major crime against cruise passengers, it is just people trying to make a living. There is a lot of poverty and people see the port as a way to make some money. Unfortunately, that has spilled over into some harassment of passengers.”

He said he believed the reason for Royal Caribbean to move its largest ships out of Falmouth temporarily was also an economic decision and argued that a major port in Cayman would be a win-win for the country and the cruise line.

“These ships are expensive to run and they need to maximize their profits. Every week, one of the big Genesis-class ships travels from Cozumel to Falmouth long distance. An intermediate stop in Cayman would add lots of value to that itinerary,” he added.

He said it was incumbent on authorities in Cayman to ensure that cruise passengers here did not face the kind of harassment that caused concern in Falmouth.

Johann Moxam, a former Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce president, said the situation in Falmouth should serve as a warning that a deal with the cruise lines is no guarantee of a long-term commitment to the Cayman Islands.

“Before the government commits the citizens and businesses of this country to hundreds of millions of dollars in public debt, we should pause and re-evaluate whether perceived benefits of mass cruise tourism are truly worth the costs and worth the risks to this and future generations. [Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s] withdrawal proves that we cannot take comfort in a cruise line guarantee as the basis of the revenue model,” he said.

“We would be foolish to proceed with this project without a careful examination of the risks to the country and more importantly, what process have we used to determine that mass cruise tourism is worth this investment and is the top priority for the economy.”

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  1. I sincerely believe that the Cayman Islands should be adventurous in investing in this project. Life is about taking a chance. If the Dart foundation had followed grunts and grumbles when they first thought of investing here they would have packed up and quit. So I would encourage investing into a new dock in Cayman. I have been to the Bahamas and have seen it working there. All we have to do is get the right persons who knows what to do to make this a success. If the government do not have the money to do it alone, then go partnership; but I think the adventure is worth investing.
    I know Cayman people are very passive with tourist and visitors, but we have persons who are not Caymanians who are very aggressive and harassing to tourist, and hopefully the law will deal with those persons who give the Island a bad name.

  2. Is Johann Moxam serious about serious examination. This port issue has been examined so thoroughly, it has all but had a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. What is left to examine. Perhaps the fact that Cayman certainly isn’t Jamaica, in terms of
    one not feeling at ease in Jamaica. That is for sure. Perhaps the fact that Cayman has no intestinal fortitude for finally moving forward with a
    tourist port, and attracting more tourists. Belly up to the bar, build the docks, and welcome the tourists. If you don’t have cruise ship tourism, Mr. Moxam, what will you then depend on.

  3. I’m afraid Robert Hamaty has missed the point here. The reason the Genesis Class vessels make the trip from Falmouth to Cozumel (not the other way as reported above) with a day at sea is because that’s where their main income comes from. In fact if you check out the itineraries you’ll find the vessels already spend three days of most trips at sea. Business 101 – Every day they spend at sea is another day when their captive audience of passengers can be encouraged to spend their money onboard. It doesn’t make a blind bit of economic sense for them to stop off at Grand Cayman en route because there’s no profit in it. The new cruise ships are self-contained resorts and they’re reaching (possibly already reached?) the point where they don’t need backwaters like Grand Cayman.

    To date not one cruise line has expressed any interest in investing money in Grand Cayman. If they won’t put their money into the dock there’s a message there – the problem is some people are just too deaf to heed it.

    • Mr. Williams thanks for your response. Cruise line have tried cruises to nowhere and failed. Passengers demand destinations. cruise ships enjoy revenues when the ship are in port i.e. onboard advertising from promoted merchants presold land and sea tours etc.. not sure who did the calculation but it was said that the geneses class ships bypassing Cayman weekly on the way to Falmouth loses $500,000 weekly. We must also realize fuel burn on these ships not calculated by miles per gallon but by per inch. A day in port while earning on island revenue is a winner for a cruise ship. Tourism and financial industry, the two main stay for our economy, the latter has migrated from GT to Cricket Square or Camana Bay, leaving GT a ghost town. Thousands of our population makes a living of cruise tourism. Regards Robert Hamaty

      • With due respect Mr Hamaty as a former airline pilot you must realise that the cruise liners burn fuel regardless of whether they are en route or in port and they operate most efficiently when cruising at a constant speed so the total fuel burn from Falmouth to Cozumel would actually be a lot higher if they diverted and stopped over here. Regardless of what you’ve been told every day at sea uses resources that would otherwise be wasted in port and earns them a heck of a lot of money. Trust me Royal Caribbean wouldn’t be steaming straight past Grand Cayman if it cost them $500K a week because their shareholders wouldn’t let them.

        The fact is that a Genesis class is designed to keep 5400 passengers fully entertained at sea. True, they haven’t yet succeeded in running ‘cruises to nowhere’ but when you have seven-day itineraries that depart Port Canaveral at 4:30pm on Sunday and arrive back the following Sunday at 6:ooam with just three stops at Labadee, Falmouth and Cozumel in between you’re getting pretty close. According to the schedule the vessel only spends 27.5 hours in port, the other 130 hours (that’s over 80%) are spent at sea.

        I’m not disrepecting your experience or your standing in the community but you need to do more homework on this before pushing these islands down a road that could lead to ruin.

        There’s also another side to this story. Check out – http://www.cruiselawnews.com/2017/07/articles/caribbean-islands/royal-caribbean-to-pull-some-of-its-cruise-ships-from-falmouth-jamaica/

        • http://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/224979/relentless-growth-of-cruise-shipping-sector-poised-to-press-on/?uid=56875
          Relentless Growth of Cruise Shipping Sector Poised to Press On
          may be of interest to you.?
          FYI captain of the RCCL navigator of the seas Capt. Bang a personal friend I actually distributes a vodka he created BANG vodka. Said reason why Nassau /Freeport the # 1 cruise port fuel burn short distance overnight in the port only generators running very cost effective for the cruise lines, not sure where you get your information from but a ship cruising at 21 kts is burning lots more fuel that at the dock. You do not cruise at 21kts on a generator . Next time you are on a flight and the captain says we have shut down both engines and fling on the APU to save fuel put on your life jacket. Regards

  4. Now Cayman islands Government , and the Minister of Tourism wake up and read this article .
    Mr. Gager told the Gleaner that the Cruise line are pulling out because off harassment to the visitors and many other issues.

    “TOURISM” has always been our bread and butter, and still wants it to be, that’s why they wants to build a new cruise ship pier. But just go back and look at Jamaica – they have a cruise ship pier already built, but the Cruise line is able to pull out because of various reasons. This could happen to Cayman Islands too if we don’t understand and learn from Jamaica problems.

    Now are Cayman Islands Tourism on that same road now? I would say fix those problems in Cayman islands first and then start to talk about building cruise ship pier. But always remember that the Cruise line has the control over their ships even if they invested in the pier, they have to protect their own reputation.