In an article in today's Miami Herald entitled "Carnival's Plan to Switch Port of Call Upsets Antigua," the newspaper reports that Carnival has dropped Antigua and Barbuda from its regular seven night Southern Caribbean cruise itinerary.
Antigua's tourism minister, John Maginley, told the Herald that Carnival informed him of their decision via e-mail:
There was no discussion, none,'' Maginely said. ``We're supposed to be partners in this thing, and all we got was an e-mail sent to the agent in Antigua that Carnival is pulling its boat.
This will cost Antigua, which is dependent on tourism, more than $40 million annually.
This should serve as a wake up call for all ports of call which are dependent on cruise lines. Carnival holds all of the cards in situations like this. The notion that a sovereign country like Antigua is an equal "partner" to an 800 pound gorilla like Carnival is fanciful. If a cruise line can make a better deal with an island next door, which charges a lower head tax, has fewer environmental restrictions, or is willing to foot the bill for a larger dock, then its "see ya later" as far as the cruise line goes.
The cruise industry likes to promote the image that it is a responsible "partner" with the ports and their local business. Today the cruise line trade organization CLIA posted a link on Twitter @CruiseFacts to a video promoting the cruise industry in Portland Maine. CLIA suggests that its cruise line members are interested in developing and sustaining long term relationships with places like Portland and the "mom & pop" stores in its port.
But Carnival's quick pull out of Antigua should be a warning to Portland and other small ports which bet their economic future on the cruise industry.
Cruise lines like Carnival are fickle lovers. Here today, gone tomorrow. Just ask the tourism minister in Antigua. He received his "Dear John" letter that his country lost $40,000,000 via email.