Carnival Cruise Line suddenly and unexpectedly canceled all future port stops to Antigua, according to the AntiguaNewsRoom today. Carnival’s announcement comes two weeks after Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne accused the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (“FCCA”) of “exploiting the region.”
As reported by the Daily Observer on February 26th, Prime Minister Browne accused the association of “exploiting Caribbean countries for lower visitor tax rates:”
“The reality is that the FCCA is literally exploiting the Caribbean. So you will charge, for example, thousands of dollars for your visitors to the Caribbean – and I know that the cruise business is capital intensive – but when you are giving these countries five or six dollars per head this cannot cover the capital costs for the infrastructure,” Browne said, pointing to Heritage Quay as an example of heavy infrastructure cost.”
Prime Minister Browne explained that the only way for small countries like Antigua to fight the FCCA is to form a regional port facility.
“Unless the entire Caribbean comes together and forms a regional port facility and mandate that [the Cruise Associations] pay more, we will continue to end up in problems and have to subsidise that sector. . . ”
Of course, the prime minister is right. This is not the first time that Carnival Cruise Line has done this to Antigua. Almost 10 years ago, as we reported in Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato, Carnival has dropped Antigua from its regular seven night Southern Caribbean cruise itinerary. Antigua’s tourism minister at the time, John Maginley, told the Miami 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.”
I wrote at the time that “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 it’s ‘see ya later’ as far as the cruise line goes.”
Carnival Cruise Line’s website has already been updated to eliminate all cruises to Antigua.
Carnival’s latest pull out of Antigua will cost the island many millions of dollars in losses to its tour operators, vendors and other local businesses. Carnival, with its tax-free billions of dollars in income, will not miss a beat.
Cruise lines like Carnival remain selfish, fickle lovers. Here today, gone tomorrow.
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Story credit: Cruise Fever Carnival Cruise Line Canceling All Ship Visits to Caribbean Cruise Port.
Photo credit: Carnival Breeze – Caribbean 360