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?  

The U.S. State Department issued a new safety warning last Friday regarding travel to Cuba.

The U.S. government warned Americans not to travel to Cuba because of recent sonic attacks on U.S. citizens who were working for the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The attacks caused the U.S. employees to experience hearing loss, ear-ringing, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, headaches and cognitive problems, among other symptoms.  

But the Miami-based cruise lines are ignoring the warning.

Carnival Cruise CEO Arnold DonaldCarnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean are continuing their cruises to Cuba. 

Carnival issued a statement that “while members and relatives of the U.S. diplomatic corps have suffered illnesses apparently triggered by occurrences at the diplomatic offices or possibly their homes, none of the more than 475,000 other Americans visiting Cuba this year have reported similar health issues related to their visits. We are, of course, closely monitoring and are in touch with U.S., as well as Cuban authorities, and will act accordingly if anything warrants a change in our plans . . .  Please be advised that your visa for travel to Cuba is valid, and there are no issues with your return to the U.S. The State Department advisory does not prohibit Americans from traveling to Cuba.”

Newsweek and the New York Times report that the U.S. has already expelled two Cuban diplomats over the attacks, and is considering further retaliatory steps. The attacks have reportedly occurred at hotels as well as U.S. citizen’s homes.  "Because some of the attacks occurred in hotels where U.S. State Department employees were temporarily staying, officials said they worried that tourists and others U.S. visitors could be affected."

Most recently, the U.S. expelled 15 of Cuba’s diplomats today to protest Cuba’s attacks on American embassy employees in Havana. Last week, the U.S. announced it was withdrawing 60 percent of the U.S. diplomats from Cuba because they might be harmed if they stay.

The U.S. State Department said: "Because our personnel’s safety is at risk and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba."

With most of the eastern Caribbean islands largely destroyed by hurricanes Irma and Maria, the cruise lines in Miami are hesitant to further disrupt their businesses by suspending cruises to Cuba. Carnival CEO Arnold Donald (photo, above right with Fathom president Tara Russell) has always banked on cruising to Cuba. 

Many travel companies suggest that the U.S. warning is overstated. The cruise lines point to the fact that only U.S. diplomats and embassy employees have been victims, so far. 

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Photo credit: CNBC

Today, my youngest son sent me a text which linked to one of the many articles about cruise lines coming to the aid of the devastated Caribbean islands following hurricanes Irma and Maria, saying "Dad, write a nice blog for the cruise lines!" 

Praising cruise lines admittedly does not come naturally for me, but there is no question that the Miami-based cruise lines (primarily Carnival and Royal Caribbean) have made a point of coming to the aid of places like St. Maarten, Antigua & Barbuda, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The major cruise lines in Miami have enjoyed and deserved good press, finding themselves featured in newspapers and television about their relief efforts (while President Trump has seemed more Hurricane Irma - Cruise Linesinterested in tweeting about the NFL). 

Royal Caribbean announced this week that it is canceling the September 30th cruise of the Adventure of the Seas so it can deploy the cruise ship to help victims of Hurricane Maria in San Juan as well as St. Croix and St. Thomas. Royal Caribbean is donating donating water and medical supplies and evacuating people from places like St. Maarten and St. Thomas USVI who wish to leave those islands because of the destruction and loss of power there.   

Carnival has deployed nearly a dozen cruise ships to ferry bring supplies to Antigua and St. Kitts in the Caribbean as well as deliver supplies to Barbuda and St. Maarten during regular cruise trips.

Carnival’s Micky Arison and the Miami Heat have pledged up to $10 million for the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma.

Carnival released a statement that: 

"As our largest cruising region, the Caribbean is extremely important to us. Carnival Cruise Line is providing extensive and wide-ranging relief throughout the Caribbean and is delivering critical supplies and the most immediate necessities, including food, water, clothing, diapers, and generators, among other items, to destinations that need our assistance.

We have a working team dedicated to this priority and are in active conversations with many entities in the Caribbean to understand the most urgent needs and how we can best help. These relief efforts will continue long-term as necessary to help our neighbors throughout the storm affected region. We have already arranged for supplies to be delivered to residents in Barbuda, St. Maarten and Dominica with many more to come in the weeks ahead.

As rebuilding efforts begin in the affected islands, Carnival Corporation, Miami HEAT Charitable Fund and the foundation of Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison and his wife Madeleine (the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation) have pledged up to $10 million in funding and in-kind support in Florida and throughout the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma. An immediate donation by the Micky and Madeleine Arison Foundation of $2.5 million will benefit Direct Relief, UNICEF and the United Way to support the most timely and urgent relief needs. Direct Relief and UNICEF are heavily Carnival Cruise Hurricane Mariaengaged in Puerto Rico. When comedian Chris Tucker performed two sold-out shows on board Carnival Liberty and Carnival Breeze as part of the Carnival LIVE concert series recently, Carnival donated 100 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales to assist islands affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

In addition, for Hurricane Harvey, Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation have already donated $2 million to support the relief and rebuilding efforts. Monies have been directed to Save the Children, Houston Food Bank, Direct Relief, Operation Homefront and United Way of Greater Houston. These organizations are providing food, water, medicine, shelter and other basic necessities to residents in the most impacted areas."

You can read more about Carnival’s relief efforts on its website here

NCL says that it is teaming up with a non-profit organization to assist in helping the rebuilding of schools and other buildings in Puerto Rico. It also announced that deployed the Norwegian Sky to St. Thomas, USVI, to deliver supplies and evacuate residents and visitors. 

It’s exciting to see the billion dollar cruise industry, which pays no U.S. taxes because of its foreign flagged cruise ships, making a difference like this.  

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Read:

Miami Herald Irma Was the ‘Most Trying Storm’ Ever for Cruise Lines. How Well Did They Respond?

Conde Nast Traveler How Cruises Have Handled All These Hurricanes

Fox Business Carnival, Royal Caribbean Ships to Help Puerto Rico Aid Efforts.

The Hill Royal Caribbean Cancels Cruise, Sends Ship on Rescue Mission to Puerto Rico

Video (below) credit: USA TODAY; photo credit: above – Hurricane Irma as of September 6, 2017 at 6:00 P.M. – Mike’s Weather Page; bottom  – Carnival relief efforts – Carnival Corporation. 

 

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