MLAs use cruise statistics to query claims

| 05/11/2019 | 24 Comments
Cayman News Service
Cruise ship in George Town Harbour

(CNS): A number of opposition MLAs have used the cruise industry’s own statistics to raise questions over claims being made by government about the cruise project. During the debate on the cruise port referendum bill last week, MLA Chris Saunders (BTW) outlined the average number of hours passengers spend on-shore in 30 different destinations in this region and showed that Cayman is already in the top three, with very little room to grow.

Saunders urged government to think long and hard about what it was doing, the dangers of mass tourism and the adverse consequences and lack of fulfilled promises in so many destinations that bought into the cruise line’s pressure to build piers.

Highlighting one of the justifications for the cruise berthing facility, which is that removing the need for tendering will allow ships to stay in port longer, he noted that government has claimed in the past that ships could stay long enough to allow passengers to be on shore for more than eight hours if we had a dock.

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While CIG pulled back from that position some time ago and is now more vague about how much additional time the ships will stay in port or passengers remain ashore, the tourism ministry is still peddling the message that there will be a significant increase in the time ships remain here.

But the cruise lines themselves have undermined this claim. The CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Michael Bayley, has said that Cayman will need to come up with better excursions for the ships to stay longer. And industry figures show that Cayman is already enjoying one of the best average times ashore by passengers, with ships already staying here each day for around eight hours.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly last Tuesday, Saunders referred to the latest industry report compiled by Brea for the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, which listed the average length of time cruisers spend in destinations around the Caribbean and Central America.

Grand Cayman is one of only a handful of destinations where they stay ashore on average for more than five hours. In light of that, he queried the claim that the piers would increase the opportunity for tour operators to sell more trips. He said it was hard to see where the growth would come from, given the industry’s own statistics.

He also challenged the government’s assumption that spending would increase. Again, Cayman is already at the top of the spending list, but most of money spent here goes on duty free goods, such as liquor, perfumes and jewellery, with just a few retailers gaining most of the benefit. He said that only a small percentage of the spend goes to taxi drivers and operators.

MLA Kenneth Bryan (GTC), who gave an impassioned contribution to the debate and challenged many of government’s claims, questioned another major justification, namely that the industry is moving towards mega ships.

Bryan pointed to the industry figures for cruise ships in the frequently cited report by Seatrade, which shows that between now and 2027, the cruise industry has 100 cruise ships in the pipeline and 90 of them are smaller ships. Only Royal Caribbean, one of the partners in Verdant Isle, the consortium that won the bid to build the piers, has ordered the Oasis class.

The fact that the industry shows no sign of being dominated by mega ships has never been addressed by government, regardless of the number of times it has been raised or that the tourism minister has claimed this as the main justification for the pier project numerous times.

During his recent visit, Bayley also told CNS that by the time the cruise project is completed, should it go head, there will only be two ships of that class plying the region but it is likely that only one will be sailing in the Western Caribbean.

Bryan pointed out that Carnival, another cruise line in the group, has five ships on order over the next decade and all of them are smaller vessels. That also applies to other cruise lines that regularly visit Cayman, such as Disney and MSC, which are all buying smaller ships. Once again calling into question the entire premise that without piers the industry here will die.

As there is no indication that the mega ships are taking over, that all of the other class of ships can tender and the cruise lines have repeatedly said they will continue to come to Cayman with or without the piers, Bryan asked the government if, as suspected by many, Cayman is proposing to embark on this environmentally catastrophic project purely for the convenience of Royal Caribbean.

Last month during that same trip, Bayley again fuelled concern that the pressure for Cayman to construct piers was largely for the convenience from the cruise lines. When asked what the problem is with tendering, given Cayman’s high disembarkation rate on all cruise ships, he told CNS that it was, in short, a “bother” that creates “anxiety” for the crews and was “less than ideal”.

See ‘Economic contribution of cruise tourism’ analysis and the Seatrade Cruise Orderbook in the CNS Library.

See Bryan and Saunders debate below on CIGTV:

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Comments (24)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Make sure you watch and listen to the end. This guy and his family travels all over the world.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I still can’t understand what this port is needed for. Or is it just so people don’t have to get on the tenders? What is the point of anyone staying longer unless they are spending money? And to be honest if they haven’t spent that money in the x hours they are here – then they are not likely going to spend it in the extra y hours they’re here. What are they going to spend it on anyway? They can eat for nothing on their ships. The sun sets at a certain time every day, unless they’re going to sit on the beach in the dark….and Cayman is not exactly known for its nightlife….not the sort that cruise ship passengers would want to attend anyway.

    The bottom line is, the roads are already bedlam. It is murder for everyone trying to get to and from home, whether they arrive/leave work early or late or on time. It almost beggars belief sometimes. We cannot, and do not want or need any more tourists than the number who already come here. And we already have too many on a lot of days.

  3. I ❤️ Kirkbots says:

    The Chinese, Russians, paid hackers, trolls or Kirkbots are desperate to win the 👍🏻👎🏻 battle on CNS. Get a life it’s NOT scientific polling

  4. Money is not everything says:

    I encourage you all to listen to what experienced captains have to say about the risks. Start on minute 39 of this video: For many reasons, it is an accident waiting to happen. Not to mention, that Hog Sty Bay (as it is now) is UNIQUE. Only here can tourists get off their cruise ship and be snorkeling within half an hour in pristine waters. Come on, people!! Instead, let’s invest that money in improving our customer service to knock the socks off tourists with world-class visitor experience all around. Our cargo arrangement is the best in the region right now, as it stands. Let us not kill the golden goose.

  5. NSider says:

    Good job, Messrs. Saunders and Bryan. Nice to see the use of facts and figures to examine govt’s unsubstantiated claims and projections re tourist numbers, behaviour, etc.

    Facts and hard data don’t feature in CIG support of this project. Could it possibly be that there aren’t any which help their cause? Or how else do your explain the absence of any kind of business case? Where are the stats?

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is an RCL and Carnival port project. Do we know where Disney, MSC and NCL stand? Maybe do away with the crap and keep the royalty.
    God save the Queen and our Islands 🌴.

    • Anonymous says:

      Legally, it’s actually a Verdant Isle project: a fully-disposable arm’s length Cayman Islands limited liability shell company. That’s the principal we are partnering with, not Carnival or Royal Caribbean. There are no stated obligations or security pledged from either liner for anything. Wise up!

    • Anonymous says:

      Disney are on record stating that they are happy with the tenders and they pulled out of the consortium.

  7. Anonymous says:

    So we will spend $200 million.. $200,000,000… to build a pier that will destroy acres upon acres of coral so we can ‘try” to attract a ship that will sail by Cayman for 1 day every 2 weeks?

    • Anonymous says:

      Current and widening passenger gap of 500,000, obliges us to finance far more than $200,000,000 over lifetime of project.

  8. Caveat Emptor says:

    CIG and the Verdant Isle Partners have been consistently lying to the public from day 1 to justify a project that benefits a few to the detriment of the majority.

    The Cayman Islands have much more important priorities than a cruise port e.g. fixing a failing public education system, dealing with rising costs of living and significant infrastructure issues. We spend four hours in traffic daily on tiny island. Quality of life is real concern.

    What are the reasons and who is getting paid to push this project through no matter the costs to the country? Where is the Governor’s Office, FCO and Auditor General’s Office?

  9. Anonymous says:

    They will spend the same amount onshore, just less time queuing to get back on the ships. that’s a good thing. But it is not a rationale for building a port.
    This port is one crooked pot.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I strongly suspect that if the dock is built, visitors will spend on average less time on land than they do currently – given it will be much easier for them to get back on board the ships.

    From personal experience on cruises, in many cases I have got off the ship, strolled around for an hour, and walked back on board for my free food/drinks.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yup. Got a short Carib cruise booked for later this year and plan to do the same, if we even get off. The attraction is treating the ship like a floating all inclusive hotel.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The Government’s entire argument is nothing but a pile of lies. Is anyone really surprised at this point? This current government is among the most corrupt I’ve ever seen here… Vote NO Dec. 19th. Tell these slimeballs we don’t need this port.

  12. Kurt Christian says:

    Vote No

  13. Anonymous says:

    In fact, as I’ve already posted on another story, there’s a perverse aspect to this because having easy access to the ships might actually reduce the time passengers spend ashore and the amount they spend here.

    I saw this at another popular destination. Passengers arrived after having breakfast, took a look around, maybe bought a couple of beers and then went back on board to enjoy all the services (most of them free) offered by the cruise line as part of their package.

    This is an area where we need to be very wary of the cruise lines because building the dock might just be a ploy to increase their onboard revenue. Bluntly, they don’t give a damn about anything they don’t own

    • Boris says:

      Two years ago at the FCCA, Carnival’s major topic and selling point, was how they would be focusing on having attractions on board ships so the length of time guests would stay on shore would be minimum and this is their plan. We spend money every year attending these conferences and yet no one has grasped what these cruise lines are all about. It is unfortunate that we have a government that is so eager and willing to move forward with a proposed project that will be damaging environmentally, socially, and economically and has no interest in the concerns of its’ people, who obviously have the ability to understand the negative impact that this project, as proposed can have on the Island. These are individuals who owe their positions partially to force and popular election and at this point they can not be regarded as the best elements, morally or intellectually in their respective positions. We speak of leaders but unfortunately we have not had one in decades, as the function of a Leader is to DEVELOPE LEADERS NOT FOLLOWERS.

      • Anonymous says:

        Great comment Boris. The problem here is CIG send people to FCCA who aren’t paid to listen to what’s being said.

  14. Anonymous says:

    As a frequent cruiser I can attest that where a ship docks, I get off, stroll around for an hour, take a picture, and go back on board for a free lunch. I then spend the afternoon sleeping in my cabin or by the pool.

    Where I have to tender ashore, I stay ashore all day.

    It is likely that cruise ships at dock will give Cayman less business, not more. The small inconvenience of tendering ashore, keeps people ashore longer.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Are there any MLAs that understand that there is USD$321,282,000 due to be paid out on November 25th? Apparently, after 10 years of PPM/UDP profligacy and vanity projects, we are still USD$183,600,000 short. Why isn’t this a topic? We don’t have any spare cash to subsidize a turtle farm, national airline, a widening passenger arrivals gap, AND service whatever junk bond terms we can hook up in the next three weeks. Discuss.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The order book demonstrates that future ships are going to be smaller, not bigger, and we’re proposing to put a defacto cap at four fairweather ships. I still don’t see how going from 7 or 8 ships a day during high season, down to maybe 4 gets our arrivals up from record 2018 2.0mln to 2.5mln required NOT to subsidize the arrivals out of public funds. Who else can count on their fingers?

    • Anonymous says:

      I’d know how this works in the USA but in Europe and the UK ’boutique’ cruises are the in thing. Small, upmarket ships catering for an older passenger base.


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