Cruise visits to St George slashed
St George’s has lost almost half the cruise ship visits booked for this year, the Mayor of the Olde Towne revealed yesterday.
George Dowling III said there were 13 cruise calls listed for Penno’s Wharf in St George’s in the 2021 cruise schedule.
Mr Dowling said: “We were slated originally to have 25 cruise ship visits in the town this year, obviously Covid aside – but Royal Caribbean sold the Empress of the Seas, and that accounted for 12 of these visits.”
The 1,800 capacity Empress of the Seas, a regular caller for more than 15 years, was sold by Royal Caribbean International to Cordelia Cruises, a new company based in India, last December.
Mr Dowling said that finding smaller vessels able to service St George was an “active” matter in talks with Lawrence Scott, the transport minister.
Mr Dowling also told Hamilton Rotary Club he was in talks with the Government to get repairs to the shipping channel at Town Cut to boost East End cruise tourism.
He added it would be “fantastic” if work on Town Cut was among the infrastructure projects being considered by Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister.
Mr Dowling said: “There is some remedial work that needs to be done before pilots have greater ease bringing boats into the town.
“There’s a training wall that needs to be repaired that’s just outside of the Town Cut, on the harbour side. It helps assist with steering – it helps keep the boat in the channel.
“That’s been eroded and it’s been struck a couple of times.”
The training wall, constructed in the 1980s, is a rock structure on the south side of Town Cut created to help guide ships through the narrow channel into St George’s Harbour.
Mr Dowling said damage to the structure would have been a problem if the Empress of the Seas had remained on course to visit Bermuda.
He added: “The pilots would not have readily brought that boat into the Town Cut because this training wall was not suitable.
“I’m reaching out to the Minister of Transport as well as Works and Engineering to get them to put it to the top of their priority list to have that repaired.”
Mr Dowling was optimistic on the Olde Towne’s future, with a major new resort scheduled to open in April.
He said: “We eagerly await the opening of the St Regis Hotel and the reopening of the St George’s golf course.
“Rest assured that these projects along with the St George’s marina will provide the catalyst for the town to become vibrant and hopping again.”
Mr Dowling said the St Regis brand was an attraction by itself.
He added: “It’s significant in the world and it has its own following. It’s going to have its own brand, its own draw, and it’s going to bring people on its own strength.”
Mr Dowling said the St George marina was “currently in the lease negotiating phase”.
He added: “This is the furthest this has ever been progressed under any administration.
“We’re looking forward to getting it over the finish line in the next few months or so.”
He said the first phase of redevelopment at Ordnance Island and repairs to the replica of the ship Deliverance were finished late last year.
Mr Dowling added: “We have several projects on the horizon that, once completed, will increase the value of the Corporation’s assets and providing additional revenue streams.
“Buildings such as the old fire station at 15 Queen Street will be renovated. The demolished building at 20 Wellington Street will be rebuilt.
“These projects will infuse the opportunity for new businesses, plus additional rental revenue for the Corporation.”
Mr Dowling said the Corporation of St George did “not have a stance” on the proposed abolition of the municipalities, which Colonel Burch said last November remained under discussion.
An Act to axe the corporations of Hamilton and St George and turn them into unelected quangos passed the House of Assembly, but was rejected by the Senate in March 2019.
Mr Dowling said: “My understanding is there is still a plan is progress with municipal reform.”
He added: “That said, it is an opportunity for the municipality of St George’s to have its own Act, so they can tailor what they need for the municipality of the town.
“Currently, they share the same Act with the City of Hamilton and it’s not really balanced.”