Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines were in advanced talks with the Port Authority in 2012 to tender an Oasis-class mega ship, according to documents seen by the Cayman Compass.
Though the cruise line – now part of the consortium slated to build the port – has said it can’t tender the 6,600-passenger vessels, Port Authority documents show that it was, at one point, prepared to consider that option.
The memo from 2012 indicates that a new shoreside security building was among a number of commitments the cruise line had requested for its Allure of the Seas vessel to be tendered in Grand Cayman.
The memo contained a list of “minimum requirements” which Royal Caribbean had asked for including:
- Seven tenders with a 300-passenger capacity to service the ship
- Three guaranteed tender-docking spots
- Shoreside security building and security personnel
- Premium anchor positions
The document also included a proposed draft itinerary which could have seen the Allure of the Seas visit Grand Cayman on Wednesdays on route from Cozumel, Mexico, to Falmouth, Jamaica, in the summer of 2012.
The memo highlighted some $565,000 in capital costs that would have been required to put the shoreside security building in place.
The Oasis-class ships, unlike most cruise ships, don’t have onboard security, so shoreside facilities to process and screen passengers would have been essential if they were to be tendered.
A series of emails between tourism and port authority officials at the time, also shared with the Compass, show that Royal Caribbean officials visited Cayman in late 2011 with a view to progressing the discussion.
The messages do not indicate that a firm decision had been taken by either party at that point. But they do indicate willingness on both sides to facilitate the Oasis-class ships coming into Grand Cayman without a pier.
Mario Rankin, a spokesman for the Cruise Port Referendum Cayman campaign, said the documents clearly show that it is possible to tender mega ships.
“It is unfortunate that Royal Caribbean chose not to continue with that programme in order to keep the Oasis-size ship on the western itinerary,” he said.
Rankin said the documents showed it could have been done at limited expense.
“They are now trying to tell people they can’t be tendered when it is really that they won’t tender them. If they were looking for a win-win they would still be engaged in that discussion,” he said.
A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean acknowledged that it had taken part in a feasibility exercise to test whether the ‘Allure of the Seas’ could be tendered into Grand Cayman when it was first launched in 2011.
“The conclusions reached at that time was that although theoretically possible to tender an Oasis-class ship, practically it was an impossibility,” the spokesperson said.
According to the statement, in response to questions from the Compass, it would have taken more than four hours to ‘debark’ more than 6,000 passengers by tender. The lack of a shoreside facility and the possibility of long waits both to clear security and then to board the tenders were also cited as reasons why the plan was shelved.
“Oasis class has never called in George Town, Grand Cayman and has never tendered globally,” the spokesperson said.
Joseph Woods, acting director of the Port Authority, acknowledged that the idea of tendering Oasis-class ships had been investigated. He said the plans outlined in the memo had never been followed through.
“My recollection of it was that it did not go ahead because the cost and logistics involved in setting it up for use by just one ship was prohibitive,” he said.
“All other ships did their own screening.”
Despite suggestions that some of the equipment listed in the memo had been purchased, Woods said this was not the case.
“The building was never acquired; the security equipment was never acquired. I don’t know of any equipment being bought by the Port Authority for that proposal,” he said.