Piers fail to stop Jam’s cruise decline

| 09/09/2019 | 82 Comments
Cayman News Service
Falmouth Port, Jamaica

(CNS): The controversial promise of a significant increase in cruise passenger numbers once the government’s proposed berthing facility is completed in George Town has been called into question once again after figures revealed that cruise numbers are down 28% this summer in Jamaica, despite the country having piers at several of its cruise ports. Even though that island has a number of facilities to accommodate the mega class of ships, the Oasis of the Seas is not bringing the numbers expected.

However, in a bizarre view of the problem, Jamaican officials are looking to the Cayman Islands to solve it. The vice-­president of cruise shipping at the Port Authority in Jamaica, William Tatham, said the decline in passenger numbers this summer at all of Jamaica’s cruise ports was because the Oasis of the Seas was not calling on Grand Cayman, so it is losing customers.

Cruise lines plying the Western Caribbean usually call on Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Tatham believes that because the Oasis refuses to tender and is therefore not stopping at Cayman, passengers are opting for the Eastern Caribbean, where they get four calls instead of three.

Between the start of 2019 to June, Jamaica’s cruise numbers fell by more than 12%, with Falmouth one of the worst affected ports.

“Because the west sail was missing Grand Cayman, we saw a decline in the Oasis class,” Tathum told The Gleaner. “The good news is that Grand Cayman is very optimistic about building a new port berth to accommodate the Oasis, and Royal Caribbean has been very much saying that we will see a complete turnaround, so the numbers for Falmouth will climb right back up.” He added that the cruise lines were optimistic about Cayman building the berthing facilities.

However, the Elections Office has verified almost enough signatures on the Cruise Port Referendum petition to ensure a national poll, so it will be the people of the Cayman Islands that decide whether the cruise port will happen, not the cruise lines.

The conclusion by Jamaican officials that their declining cruise sector is now in the hands of the Cayman Islands’ proposed project has been met with derision here. Those opposed to the project point to the “twisted logic” as just another example of the manipulation of destinations by the cruise sector. Jamaica has been plagued with problems since it invested in piers to accommodate the desires of the industry.

On his Facebook page, opposition MLA Chris Saunders (BTW), who opposes the government’s plan to build berthing facilities here, wrote: “So let me get this straight… Jamaica built piers expecting to have more cruise passengers… and now that they aren’t getting the passengers they expected… they need piers to be built in Cayman… to help the piers they built in Jamaica. Folks.. you can’t make this up. All I can say is that misery really loves company.”

Cruise ship destinations have increasingly found that promises made by cruise companies are not fulfilled, or are experiencing other problems, such as a decreasing share of the fees for shore excursion sold on ships actually going to the tour operators, as well as pollution from the ships at the ports of call.

One of the main issues for Cayman is the environmental destruction that will be caused by the proposed project and the significant loss of coral the dredging and work will cause. Other major causes for concerns include the impact on small businesses currently serving the tourism sector, from bars on the harbour front to the submarine tours, as well as the negative effects on the wider and far more lucrative overnight sector.

Meanwhile, one former cruise industry executive is calling for Caribbean islands to form some type of regional cartel in order to fight back against what he called the predatory nature of the cruise lines and address the imbalance that has been created, where cruise lines have benefitted from the Caribbean destinations for decades, but tough negotiations have limited the economic growth of the islands they visit.

“Currently, when individual countries try to increase port taxes they are threatened with being dropped from cruise itineraries and can be picked off one by one by the powerful cruise lines,” Robert MacLellan, a former vice-president of an explorer cruise line and now MD for a Caribbean-based hospitality consultancy, recently told Forbes.


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Comments (82)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Mr McLaughlin, I am not going to include Mr Kirconnell and McKeeva in this because this is on you and I really expected better of you. We now see the real reason of your trip to Jamaica – it was the dock and the new Caribbean Connection. I can’t in my wildest dreams comprehend How you could make this secret move. You are being brain washed by these demons. Cayman has always been the best (unique) and apart a gem!!! why do you want to join forces with the likes of them? They have noting to offer and all to take from us. Shameful. Mr Premier I am really disappointed in you to say the lease. The world is watching and the stigma will spill over on us. I beg you to view the videos on face book, watch the news on these Caribbean Islands and then tell us what they have to offer us. You will see they have NOTHING to offer us!!!!.

  2. Caf says:

    Just want to add that as someone who would probably be considered a luxury traveler, I am less likely to visit an island with a lot of cruise ship visits. Cruise ships are good for taxi drivers and T-shirt shops. Not so good for premium hotels and restaurants.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We have had a Marine Park since 1980’s where is the increase of fish, lobster, sponges and corals? We keep hearing the cost, the environment, etc.
    What about the stayover visitors jammed in the airport? How many Caymanians working in hotels? How much do they make? What about their impact on the environment? More cars on the road, thats a lot of carbon monoxide.
    We talk about sand, silt and sediment? What about Northwesters for 2-3 days? Are we denying what we see when a Northwester is pounding reefs 8-12 feet high? Is the water clear after 3-4 days? Stop the lies CPR

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  4. RH says:

    My wife and I went to Falmouth on a cruise once. It was the last time we will ever go to Jamaica! We were harassed by drug dealers constantly and pushed thru an ally where we were asked to buy something from each of their “friends”. The Caymans are winning because you can walk safely down the street there without the fear of being stalked. We have been to Georgetown 2 times now and love it.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Check out the real reason WHY cruise passengers are not eager to return to Jsmsica.. ??? Is it because they don’t like the Cruuse Port…??? Nonsense.. !!!

  5. DRSimons says:

    speaking as a tourist, Cayman is one of the better ports on the western Caribbean itinerary. When I choice the western Caribbean cruise, I really do not want to visit most ports other than Cayman, Cozumel, Roatan, Belize. However I do understand the environmental impact of creating a new port. I believe the people of Cayman need to consider the pros and cons equally as Cayman is a very attractive destination and having a port will definitely increase the popularity of the island. Having said that, I don’t mind the tendering process either.

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    • Anon. says:

      People making it seem like without a pier, Cayman cruise ship industry will die, this is the cruise ships putting pressure on our Government to do this nonsense.
      Coco Cay is a popular stop for Carnival, is there a pier there? No! and there will never be one.

      Listen Cayman, I am telling you that if these piers are built it will be us Caymanians stuck with it and no ships coming. Cruise ship passengers are fickle, one minute you are the hot destination, next you are not.

      It is not worth it in the long run. You might initially see an increase in the numbers with piers but they will eventually decline and go back to where they were before piers or worse and then we have destroyed our environment for what? A temporary influx of fickle tourists.

      Alden says he will respect the referendum but Moses is determined to build these piers, he has too much money riding on that happening. His extended family own Kirk Freeport and they definitely want the piers.

      DO NOT DESTROY THE LITTLE BEAUTY WE HAVE LEFT!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        The Kirkvonnrll Family built a business here LONG BEFORE there were plans for a Cruise Pier.. !!! They are a highly respected family, who have spent multiplied millions of dollars on infrastructure in Geoege Town… they are exemplary citizens of our Cayman Idlands !!! What about the “Johnny-Come-Lately” folks, whose EGO seems to know no bounds.. !!!???

  6. Anonymous says:

    Publicly-traded Liners, with a considerable amount of Wall Street help and approval, can order new ships from the few yards still solvent, that can handle these builds, perhaps ordering bigger ships (if those were to make sense), but they cannot do this without passengers and ports, ie. the other side of the equation. We cannot go from 2mln/yr to 2.5mln/yr break-even without an additional 0.5mln Western Caribbean Cruise passengers (a 25% increase) per year that aren’t lining up now, and don’t look to be looking ahead to a global recession. There need to be, not 1, but 5 ports in a one week cruise itinerary for any of this to make sense. If they aren’t going to their private Haitian islands, Falmouth or Cozumel, where do they go? Cuba is closed for the foreseeable! We need to cut through the thick BS being shoveled (at our expense) by Unity and see that the business assumptions and rationale are entirely imprudent.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Can everyone please look at the water sediment in the picture.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Right? Look at how disgusting the water looks around the piers. This is what our great leaders are so hell bent on accomplishing, the destruction of our beautiful environment through “best intentions”.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Relax. It’s just sand kicked up by the thrusters.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Which will kill all coral and delicate marine life, turning the area into a submarine dead zone.

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          • Anonymous says:

            What happens after a Nir’Wester… ??? The rock bottom is turned upside-down, and within a few days, it settles back to the beautiful clear ocean… just as it has done for millions of years, perhaps.. !!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    So the PPM Unity Govt cant convince the Cayman voters that the port is a good idea as is, so Alden, Julie and McKeeva went to Jamaica 2 month ago for the Agri Trade show and asked the Jamaican politicians for help in convincing the Cayman voters to build the port??

    Now, the Jamaican politicians thought that was a good idea as well because it takes the blame away from the Jamaican politicians’ failed cruise policy and practices.

    How about this: If Jamaica wants Cayman to build the piers, then Jamaica should pay for them but Cayman will still own them.

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  9. C says:

    The crime in Jamaica and the agressivness of the people are the problem. It is the only place in the Caribbean I was extorted for money and I go all over regularly. You have to fix the people, not the port to fix the issues.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yup

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    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly. I didn’t enjoy our call in Falmouth, Jamaica at all. The locals are some vile criminals, looking to rip tourists off any way possible or even rob them. I was even indirectly threatened by a police officer… said if I gave him money he would stop the others from snatching my jewelry off.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Public Beach is well on its way

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    • Anonymous says:

      I agree it is the crime in jamaica that needs to be fixed in order to get more tourist to want to go there. As far as a pier in Cayman I don’t mind being tendered in, we need to save the environment as in the coral and the sea life.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    now, point out. imagine if they had not built the piers. They would be even worse off.

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    • Anonymous says:

      That’s pure supposition. There are only 3 facts here:

      1. Jamaica had a thriving cruise industry
      2. They built piers to accommodate mega ships at the demand of megaship owners
      3. Now, their cruise industry is declining

      Reasons for or against are pure guesses, biased by people’s viewpoints or interests. However, until you know for sure, building piers here would be a $2-300m gamble in the face of facts that at least suggest it might destroy the industry it is meant to save. You can build a pier later when the root cause for the decline is determined. BUT you can’t unbuild the piers, put back the reefs and restore the reputation nearly as easily, if at all. This gamble is a one way road with the future of so much at stake.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Okay hippie, but you trying to say “building piers will cause a decline in cruises” is pure stupidity.

        Automanufacterers making better cars makes people drive less
        Restaurants making better food, makes less people dining out

        Do you understand how stupid it sounds to say making piers causes a cruise decline.

        From a business perspective. I would rather float a 5k person boat. and make LESS trips. With a boat filled. less often. Than make many trips from 3k person boats, that are half empty.
        You really have to see this. If not, you are not entirely too bright. Or business minded.

        So if the cruise industry declines. What do you think they are going to do?
        Use smaller ships half full, or bigger ships with less trips, but more full.
        Common sense says, bigger ships, less trips. Because the profit margin is higher
        Seriously. Building the pier can only help. not hinder.

        WHoooooaaaa so a very small area of coral dies around the piers. End of the world scenario here, folks!

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        • BeaumontZodecloun says:

          You really didn’t read carefully. I think you let your own bias fill in the blanks.

        • Anonymous says:

          Your comment is almost funny. Only almost. You’ve written your whole business case from the perspective of the cruise lines. They don’t own our island. It’s not theirs to just plot ship sizes for efficiency. It’s our home and our children’s future economic farm. I’ve learned over many years of fairly successful business that you don’t bet the whole darned farm on a gamble. That’s plankton-level thinking (if I’m not being too unkind to plankton).

  11. Anonymous says:

    Ha, So you think if we don’t build the piers that the Jamaicans you all are complaining about will just stay in Jamaica? If they are not happy in Jamaica and prospering guess whose job they will be taking next? The largest sector that is growing in Cayman is development. 3000 projects are approved to be built. Crime is down. Where are the majority of the workers from? Wake up.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The majority can and should be from the Philippines, Canada, Poland, and other places providing experienced and skilled labour to do tasks that Caymanians cannot.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    The dude makes no sense. He’s got the itineraries, ship classes and operators all balled up. There are currently cruises all over the western Caribbean, but most avoid Haiti and Jamaica. Cayman is also on many itineraries that do not include Jamaica. Jamaica’s problem is that it is not safe or fun to go there. Don’t be like Jamaica.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Jamaica keep your problems and your people in Jamaica. You all cause enough trouble here.

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  14. Jez Cuz says:

    Compass article is just a big pile of dung!!!

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  15. Anonymous says:

    crime.. .cayman next

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Jamaicans are the problem in Jamaica not cruise ship ports. My Family and I have not been back to Jamaica because of beggars.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    No to $200+million piers! Why can’t we satisfy with the cruise market that we have now? Why does everything have a greed component??!!

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  18. Anonymous says:

    The cruise ship pier will actually destroy our tourism. Be like the worst own goal ever scored. Say no to this abomination…

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  19. Anonymous says:

    That’s because it’s Jamaica! DUH.

    There’s no amount of piers that could help fix the issues they have. Don’t feel like being harassed on vacation.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Oh dear!! Jamaica land of wood and water seems to be drinking the cruise companies’ cool-aid too. Please leave us out of that rationalization. Your numbers are down and it now looks like the easiest way to fix it is to blame our lil 2×4 rock.?? The writing is on the wall Cayman – when you invest all that money and get nothing out of it who you gonna blame? Brexit? Cuba? Brazil ?

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    • Scotland Yard says:

      That is just a cook up between CIG and Jamaica. Their campaign propaganda as to how our tourism depends on the cruise ship berthing facility and now, not just Cayman, without this pier we will destroy tourism in Jamaica? Give me a freaking break. Jamaica’s tourism will continue to decline, if the politicians don’t realise their real problems and deal with. CIG will do anything to ensure the construction of this facility based on their proposed design. Watch out for the referendum question.

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      • Anonymous says:

        3.06pm … you got that right – I really expected better from those three stooges. Just goes to show how short their memories are when it comes to these corrupted neighbors and how easily it is to brain wash them. Sad, sad for Cayman, May God help us.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just look in the mirror!!

      We are allowing government to take us down the drain.

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    • Anonymous says:

      1.47pm ….. yes as usual they always blame someone else. And they all expect Cayman to solve their problems. Always riding on the highly respected Cayman Islands. It got to stop.

  21. Elvis says:

    lets be honest. its not the port that’s giving problems there.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    This just proves the strong position that Cayman is in to negotiate with the lines. It has long been admitted by the Cruise Lines that Cayman is a demand destination, if customers are not booking the larger ships because Cayman is not on the itinerary that literally puts Cayman in the drivers seat as the Cruise Lines don’t want empty ships. Our officials need to ensure that we get the best deal possible as they need Cayman.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    Our corrupt government care about…..THEMSELVES.

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  24. Anonymous says:

    Piers are not the problem with Jamaican ports, Crime and customer feeling of unsafety is the problem.

    Jamaican ports have always had issues from hecklers and randoms harassing the tourists, not to mention as soon as you walk off the ships in Jamaica people are trying to sell drugs etc.

    Jamaica is the problem, not the docks.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well said 12.30.
      Jamaicans continue to shoot themselves in the foot , even anti-pier people have to admit that more people would go there if it was a safe hassle free destination.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Whatever the problem is, it proves the point that there are more reasons why a cruise will stop, or not stop, at a location than the piers. And why Cayman needs to focus on what actually attracts cruisers, i.e., better managed on-island experience, as the Government’s own cruise studies recommended being more cost efficient than building piers.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Jamaica is beautiful and is not the problem. The problem is how the people there conduct themselves.

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    • Anonymous says:

      This government led by Alden McLaughlin McKeeva Bush and Moses Kirkconnell is following the same blue print to become the next Jamaica in every way shape and form.

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    • Anonymous says:

      higglers is the term…. and with the eastern Caribbean still getting over massive hurricane damage and still no one wants to go to Jamaica…and he going to blame it on CAYMAN???????

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  25. Anonymous says:

    There appears to be a lot of milky sediment filled water around those ships! How much coral has been killed in and around Falmouth? Is the sea there ever crystal clear now, or has it been ruined forever?

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