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

 

Three cruise visitors to Antigua, two from an unidentified MSC cruise ship and one from the P&O Brittania, were recently attacked and robbed in St. John’s in separate crimes according to the Antigua Observer.

The two crimes were violent.

The local police arrested two men, 20-year-old Joel Richards and 19-year-old Anderson Garcia, who are accused of aggravated robbery on February 1st of French visitors Jacques Colbert and Christiane Marcelle Drouth who were visiting from an unidentified MSC cruise ship.

The newspaper states that around 11 a.m. on February 1st, the couple were sightseeing nearby a tower when they were attacked and robbed by two men.  The attackers reportedly wrestled a handbag from the 62-year-old woman and stabbed her 70-year-old companion in the abdomen, before running off.

The newspaper indicates that the local police responded and, after waiting for an ambulance, they transported the injured man to the hospital, where he was admitted and treated.

A second crime occurred a few days earlier when a U.K. national was beaten and robbed. The victim is Michael Maycock, who arrived on P&O’s cruise ship Brittania on January 28th.

Mr. Maycock was reportedly sightseeing around midday at the St John’s Cathedral in the city when a man attacked him with a piece of wood. The man beat him with the object, pushed him to the ground and took away his wallet which contained US $100 and debit cards.

I named Antigua as the seventh most dangerous cruise destination in the world several years ago after several cruise passengers were robbed and a young woman visiting the island from Star Clippers was murdered. I wrote at the time:

“. . . like other beautiful but impoverished islands in the Caribbean, Antigua seems like paradise but it has seen more than its share of tragedies. The murder of a young woman during a cruise for her sister’s wedding led to the cruise company dropping the island as a port of call, but it quickly returned.”

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Photo credit: Antigua Global Ports Holding Plc.

A dispute is brewing in the Bahamas over a tug boat fee that the government plans to charge cruise ships and other commercial vessels using the harbor of Nassau.

Earlier this week, the Bahamas Tribune reported that the Miami-based cruise industry believes that it does not need tug service in the port of Nassau.

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s (FCCA), through its president Michele Paige, told the Tribune newspaper that the cruise industry was “fundamentally opposed” to paying for the tug service in Nassau harbor. FCCA is claiming that the new fee will result in additional unwarranted costs, which will make the Bahamas cruise experience “more expensive.”

The two new tug boats, named Tug Samson and Tug Rose, will be operated by a 100% Bahamian-owned and operated company, called Tug Services Ltd, according to the Tribune. The Bahamas has come to the conclusion that the new tugs are necessary to maintain adequate services for the Port of Nassau commercial vessels calling at its port. Bahamian officials cite the need for reliable service during poor weather and in emergencies, in addition to regular tug services needed for firefighting, oil spill recovery, salvage capabilities and the safe movement of cruise and cargo ships in and out of the harbor.

The Bahamas is attempting to upgrade Nassau’s cruise port, at Prince George Wharf, to reverse declining revenues from passenger spending at the port.

The FCCA always disputes any cost increases which are levied against the cruise lines. The FCCA even fought against the reasonable attempts to increase the pilotage fees sought by the Biscayne Bay Pilots here in Miami.

As I have said before many times, the only cost increases permitted by the cruise lines are those levied against their guests for things like mandatory tips and gratuities, drink increases or room service charges. The cruise industry likes to demand control everything it touches, whether it is the taxes imposed by the state of Alaska for environmental protection and infrastructure, or the minimal head taxes of the poor Caribbean ports. It steals the tips intended from its powerless foreign crew members and nickels and dimes all of its passengers to collect every penny it can.

But paying for the costs of two new tugs in one of its most popular cruise ports?  $700 for a tug into port in Nassau? No way says the FCCA, even though the cruise industry collects tens of millions of dollars with increased gratuities and on on-board charges.

A Bahamian cabinet minister is defending the mandatory tug boat fee for Nassau harbor, telling the Bahamian newspaper that “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Nassau reportedly may be an easy port for cruise ships to dock in but it has not stopped Florida-based cruise lines from occasionally smashing into its docks, as a Disney cruise ship proved last year (video below). Perhaps a couple of well maintained tugs would help. The cruise industry seems to smash into piers in numerous cruise ports from time to time, like in Roatan, Ketchikan, Buenos Aires, Baltimore, Nice, Messina, PireausMarseille, and New York to name a few. But the majority of these incidents are not friendly little fender-benders like the Disney cruise ship mishap in Nassau.

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Photo credit: Port of Nassau – View of Prince George Wharf – TampAGS wikipedia – creative commons 3.0

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Ilekd7_Kodw%3Frel%3D0

 

In a media blitz, Royal Caribbean recently announced that it plans a massive overhaul of its "private island," CocoCay, in the Bahamas.

USA Today reported that Royal Caribbean’s will spend $200,000,000 for what is described as a "massive makeover" of its private destination in the Bahamas that will include the addition of one of the largest water parks in the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean is one of the many Miami based cruise lines which entered into a long term lease with the Bahamas of one its native islands.

The island is in the Berry Islands in the Bahamas and was previously known as Little Stirrup Cay. Royal CaribbeanCoco Cay Bahamas assumed the lease of the island upon acquisition of Admiral Cruises and renamed the island CocoCay. Royal Caribbean is one of the first cruise lines to lease islands in the Bahamas for their exclusive use.

The newspaper reports that the overhaul of the 125-acre island, to be renamed "Perfect Day at CocoCay" will include a 1,600 foot-long zip-line, the largest freshwater pool in the region, a helium balloon ride that takes cruise passengers 450 feet into the air and several other "over-the-top" features.

The project will also include dredging of the coral basin around the island and the installation of a pier in order to accommodate Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships which each carry over 6,000 passengers.

The water park will have a “South Beach” area where the cruise passengers can, for an extra fee, rent  jet skis or cabanas or pay for boat excursions or parasails trips.

Royal Caribbean will receive 100% of the profits from the revenues generated by the zip lines, helium balloon rides and other activities operated by the cruise line in the renovated private island. 

In my view, the project seems to be a vote of no confidence in the existing ports in the Bahamas, Nassau and Freeport.  

According to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau, an activist in the Bahamas, Heather Carey, denounced the project in a Facebook post yesterday. 

Ms. Carey said in her post on Facebook: “Just another example of how the cruise ship industry does little to benefit us locally, and instead continues to make the visitor experience more insular to the cruise ship islands, taking away any motivation to explore places like Nassau or to enjoy the excursions we offer. . . . We cannot give away any more of our beautiful Bahamas to these bottomless pits."

Ms. Carey is absolutely correct is her assessment of the Royal Caribbean’s plans. I should also add that the high crime rate in Nassau probably factored into the cruise line’s decision to invest heavily into the cruise line’s private destination.

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Photo credit: Royal Caribbean via USA Today. 

NassauThe United States Department of State has again listed the crime threat in the Bahamas as "critical" and warned U.S. tourists to take safety measures while visiting the country.

The warning was issued by the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) which just published the the Bahamas 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Like other U.S. warnings about the Bahamas, this latest warning primarily involves Nassau (New Providence), not the "outer islands" not frequented by cruise ships. The OSAC estimates that there are approximately 370,000 people living in the Bahamas, with around 70% (around 250,000-260,000) of the population residing in crime-filled New Providence. Another another 15% (55,000) live on Grand Bahama. The rest of the population is dispersed over numerous islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”), where crime is substantially less than in Nassau.

We reported on three prior warnings in the last thirty days by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau as well as by Canada.   

The per capita murder and rape rates for the Bahamas as a whole are drastically higher than any port city in the United States. 

The Nassau Guardian covered the latest U.S. warning. 

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Photo credit: NASA – Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas issued a new crime warning for the city following the assault of a U.S. citizen during the early evening hours of February 6, 2018, while jogging on West Bay Street just west of Goodman’s Bay Park.

This is an area around two miles west of the cruise port and downtown and east of the popular Cable Beach.

The Embassy urged that caution should be used in all areas of New Providence while traveling by foot Nassau Bahamas Crime Warningafter dark.

The Bahamas Tribune covered the new crime warning today.

The United States State Department issued its last crime warning for the Bahamas on January 10, 2018, which states, in part:

“Exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime.

Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault is common, even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime. Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults against tourists, including minors. As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.”

The U.S. government has issued more crime warnings for the Bahamas than for all locations in the Caribbean.

The common response from the Bahamian tourism officials to these warning is to suggest that Nassau is safe compared to major American cities like Chicago or New York.

But the per capita murder rate in the country of the Bahamas is much higher than the per capita rate in Chicago and many, many times higher than the per capita rate in New York City. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000.

Most cruise tourists don’t understand that the murder, rape and crime rates per capita are much higher in the Bahamas, particularly in Nassau, than anywhere the tourists are from.

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In Falmouth, Jamaica, the Port Authority of Jamaica is continuing to pursue dredging projects in order to permit the gigantic "mega liners," including Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class (sometimes called "Genesis-class") cruise ships to squeeze into the port, which was rebuilt in 2011. During the construction of the two new two piers, the port was originally dredged.    

Jamaica has a goal of boosting the numbers of cruise visitors, seemingly irrespective of the damage which dredging will cause to the environment around the port. At the urging of Miami-based cruise lines, the government of Jamaica intends to dredge the southern berth of the port at Falmouth this year. This will cause significant further destruction of the reefs around the port in order to allow two Oasis-class vessels to dock at the same time.

This is part of the plan recently touted by the Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness which Falmouth Jamaica Portfeatures further dredging the port of Falmouth, referred to alternatively in the Jamaican Gleaner as the "jewel of the Caribbean" or "the region’s number one destination" for cruise shipping.

Prime Minister Holness stated to the Jamiacan newspaper that the Falmouth pier ‘"was built in anticipation for not only the growing demands of the cruise industry, but also the fact that cruise ships were "getting bigger by the day." He was quoted as saying "it wasn’t that long ago when we had ships with a carrying capacity of say 2,000 being touted as the largest cruise ships in the world. Since then, we have seen a number of vessels earning that title. We have had Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and now, we have Harmony of the Seas, with its 2,747 staterooms, and 8,550 guests and staff on 16 decks."

The Prime Minister noted that it was an "excellent idea to have constructed this port. We can now host the mega liners and all the Oasis Class vessels."

Six years ago, in my article titled Royal Caribbean’s New Port in Falmouth, Jamaica – At What Cost to the Environment?, I cited the article of Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? by Michael Behar, who wrote that in Falmouth, Royal Caribbean oversaw the smashing of "a quarter-mile-wide opening in an offshore barrier reef. They dredged coral, both living and dead, as well as the rock substrate, and trucked it inland to a two-square-mile dump site — a clear-cut area on the outskirts of town that was once a thriving red mangrove swamp. Now all that’s left is 35 million cubic feet of pulverized coral and rubble. When I visit the site with Roland Haye, a Jamaican environmental activist, he tells me, ‘As a boy, I used to play Tarzan here and see crocodile. It was a winter home for great heron and swan.’ He points out broken conch shells, dismembered starfish, bits of sea sponge, and severed lobes of brain coral." 

In that article, I wrote that the removal of the natural reef exposes the shore to pounding of the waves from the adjacent bay.  "When I visited (back in 2012) , I observed that the road . . .  to Falmouth, previously protected from the pounding of the by the reef, was literally covered with water from the encroaching waves. The road was already eroding . . ."

Yesterday, a friend of mine in Montego Bay filmed a short video from his cell phone as he drove into Falmouth. The video shows the bay’s waters from the now destroyed reef system lapping over the deteriorating roadway into the port of Falmouth.   

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Photo credit: Falmouth Port (above) – Jim Walker

https://youtube.com/watch?v=a7gOaj5Sb6E%3Frel%3D0

The United Stated State Department issued a new crime warning for the Bahamas. You can read the new warning issued on January 10, 2018 here.

The crime warning states, in part:

Exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime.

Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault is common, even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime. Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults Nassau Port Cruiseagainst tourists, including minors. As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.

The warning refers to the U.S. State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) whose 2017 Report for the Bahamas characterizes crime in that country as "critical.

The OSAC report states that the majority of reported violent crimes were against local Bahamians and mostly occurred in areas of saturated criminality not typically visited by tourists; however, New Providence (Nassau), where around 250,000 Bahamians live, has witnessed "violent crimes in locations more commonly frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities. Criminality and violent crime has increased on Grand Bahama island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes."

"Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives, and these weapons are commonly brandished . . . there were reports of firearms used in the commission of armed robberies, where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim resisted. Many of these armed robberies were snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, cell phones, and cash. Should you be confronted by someone demanding money/valuables, you should comply with their demands and make the encounter as brief as possible. If confronted, try to remain calm, clearly display your hands and do not make any sudden moves that could be interpreted as resistance.

Armed robberies, property crimes, purse snatchings, theft, fraud, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists."

The OSAC report further documents that "in 2016, numerous incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations. Crimes occurred near popular tourist areas adjacent to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas as well as the popular downtown area. Several armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas."

We have reported on over a dozen U.S. warnings about the high level of crime in the Bahamas, primarily in the capital city of Nassau. 

In 2014, we selected Nassau as the most dangerous port of call in our list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World, and later stated that Nassau was "one gunshot away" from the cruise lines exiting that port. 

As we wrote then, we have been warning about crime in Nassau ever since we started this blog in September 2009. In October 2009, two "vicious robbers" robbed a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship by gunpoint in Nassau. In November 2009, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during excursions from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships. 

The Nassau Guardian published an article about the new crime warning. 

In response to the warning which mentions the fish fry businesses at Arawak Cay in Nassau, Bahamian Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar criticized the crime advisory to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau, suggesting that Nassau was safe compared to major American cities like "Chicago or New York.”

This is a common although misleading argument.  The per capita murder rate in the country of the Bahamas is higher than the per capita rate in Chicago and many, many times higher than the per capita rate in New York City. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000

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Photo credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Today, the Trump administration announced new regulations restricting travel to Cuba. 

According to the Miami Herald, U.S. citizens will be banned from engaging in business with entities tied to the Cuban military, intelligence and security services, including hotels, stores, marinas, tourist agencies, and industries tied to the Cuban government. 

The regulations, however, do not restrict cruise lines operating to Cuba as they are currently doing.

Cruise CubaThe Herald writes that President Trump’s new travel restrictions were drafted with input from Miami anti-Castro Republicans, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and Senator Marco Rubio, who previously opposed cruise ships going to Cuba.

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Photo credit: ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI / REUTERS via NY Daily News.

Falmouth Jamaica PortThe Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) intends to again dredge the port of Falmouth in order to extend the Falmouth cruise ship pier, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

A PAJ representative stated that the new project will permit the Jamaican port to allow two of the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class (originally known as the Genesis Class) cruise ships (Oasis, Allure, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas) to dock simultaneously in Falmouth. 

The PAJ has tried to avoid discussing the controversial project although a number of local Jamaican leaders have voiced opposition to the dredging.

As we reported earlier this summer, the Gleaner reported on calls for the local citizens in Jamaica to resist the dredging. A pastor in Trelawny, the Reverend Devere Nugent of the William Knibb Baptist Church, was "calling on the people and churches in the parish to resist the plan to do further dredging of the sea, which is a proposal to bring more cruise ships to the resort town."

Reverend Nugent said "I am calling on the churches and people to establish baskets of resistance. We must resist the further dredging of the sea. Let us no longer sit back and be exploited.The people who are planning to do further dredging are doing so for their own profit, none of which stays in Falmouth. Falmouth Jamaica Dredging They don’t live here, they don’t shop here, and they don’t join any church or civic organization here. It is broad-based exploitation."

We have reported on Royal Caribbean exploitation of Falmouth and the destruction of the local habitat there before. The coral reefs were pulverized and dumped on fields of mangroves when the port pier was build for Royal Caribbean nine years ago.    

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Photo credit: top – Jim Walker

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act?