Representatives from two of the world’s largest cruise lines have insisted they are moving toward operating mega-ships that will not tender in Grand Cayman.
Senior bosses from Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean appeared alongside government officials at a public meeting Wednesday night to make the case for a new cruise berthing facility in George Town.
Both cruise lines say they will still bring some ships to the island, even if piers are not built, but they say the number of passengers they bring to Grand Cayman will reduce substantially as they phase out some smaller vessels and replace them with mega-ships.
Miguel Reyna, director of port business development for Royal Caribbean Cruises, said it was looking to move more of the larger Oasis-class ships to its western Caribbean routes. He said the smaller Freedom-class ships would be phased out and replaced with the larger vessels, carrying more than 5,000 passengers.
He said, “Our projections are that within the next five years, our traffic [into Grand Cayman] may drop from 450,000 passengers to potentially 250,000 passengers ….
“We don’t bring the Oasis-class ships to the Cayman Islands, and Royal Caribbean has no plans to tender the Oasis in any port.”
David Candib of Carnival Corporation gave a similar message. He said the cruise line was behind its competitors in the shift to larger vessels, but was investing heavily in catching up.
He said Carnival had 22 ships on order worldwide, nine of which are its new larger class, carrying more than 6,000 passengers. He said the first of those would be deployed in the Caribbean in 2020.
“We are now evaluating where those ships are going to go,” Mr. Candib said. “They are not being considered to bring to destinations that don’t have berthing facilities.”
The cruise lines faced questions from the public about the environmental cost of the project. Some accused them of “bullying” the Cayman Islands by effectively presenting the jurisdiction with an ultimatum to build piers or lose business.
Responding to that accusation, Mr. Candib said they were simply presenting the facts about the future of the industry.
He said Carnival would continue to come to Grand Cayman but was not prepared to tender its larger ships for practical reasons.
He said the company was interested in investing in the piers. “We have been asked through this process would we have an interest in financing or working or being part of that [the pier project] and we said we certainly would,” he said.
Some attendees challenged the cruise line executives on the environmental cost. Katrina Jurn, of Sustainable Cayman, asked if they wanted the destruction of some 15 acres of coral reef and the potential damage to neighboring reefs to be their legacy in Cayman.
Both men said they had followed environmental best practices in other port projects. Mr. Candib said the specifics of the project were still being considered through the procurement phase and suggested Carnival would not proceed with the project if it were viewed purely as a negative for Cayman and its environment.