Wedco expects cruise numbers to bounce back
Early into the 2023 cruise ship season, the Royal Naval Dockyard has already lost half of the first 20 cruise ship calls expected at King’s Wharf or Heritage Wharf, the official cruise ship schedule shows.
The truth is winter storms have wreaked havoc with the schedule, as ships have opted to bypass the island for calmer seas. It was a known variable since the pre-pandemic push to lengthen the cruise ship schedule into 12 months.
The Norwegian Getaway will make a fifth try to get into port Tuesday after cancellations on the first four scheduled runs since January. The Norwegian Gem has docked in just four out of its eight scheduled visits to date.
In March alone, five out of the first nine ship visits scheduled for the west end have been cancelled.
Still, a day after the Norwegian Gem put in to port for just a day, and the day before the Riviera would do the same, West End Development Corporation officials squeezed in an annual event Friday morning that had been struck down by the Covid crisis for three years.
The annual Wedco breakfast was held Friday for the first time since 2019. About 180 people from the hospitality sector, government and industry associations assembled for the Wedco information session ahead of the active part of the tourism year.
And Wedco officials feel good about the months ahead. Dockyard hosted 354,000 cruise ship passengers in 2022. And weather permitting, a banner year is projected for 2023. Ocean cruising is back in swing and more than a half a million visitors will cruise to the west end this year.
That could reap hundreds of millions of dollars in tourist spending.
“I am proud to report that we’re back,” Andrew Dias, Wedco general manager, told those assembled on the terrace of Bone Fish Bar & Grill for the information session.
Mr Dias added: “I hope to say that we’re better than we’ve ever been before – that’s our objective for this year.”
The Wedco boss said later: “This is probably the last Friday that you won’t see a ship here. This was an opportunity to get everyone geared up for the season, to ensure that our business partners know what we are doing and what we have to offer.”
He added: “We are trying to assist in the revitalisation of tourism, post-Covid. We want to do our part.”
Joanna Cranfield, Wedco business development manager, said: “It has been a great awakening. It’s been winter for three years, and now spring has sprung.”
She added: “Nobody had masks on today. People feel safe again, and we are excited about the upcoming season.”
Dockyard was full in pre-Covid days – however, six businesses have closed since the last networking breakfast four years ago: Dockyard Glassworks, Bermuda Rum Cakes, Calypso, Locked on the Rock, Handmade Bermuda and the Vintage Transport Museum.
But Marvalans Handbags and Accessories has opened in The Clocktower Mall, Scooter Mart has taken over the former transport museum space – and David Rose Studio and Mix N Roll have been added to Dockyard’s vendor programme of small booths.
The Lisa-Anne Rego Gallery has expanded to take over three units in the mall, while Bermuda Triangle has moved into a newly refurbished space.
Oleander Cycles has expanded into the former Glassworks building and is offering scooter, e-bike and electric car rentals – and Calico Jack’s floating bar and the Longtail floating fun park are both targeting May 1 openings.
Two suites are currently available in The Clocktower Mall, measuring 465 and 491 square feet, as is office space on the second floor of the building.
Having some vacancies, Ms Cranfield said, presents “opportunities, vacancies that could be filled, which attract new people”.
A free historical walking tour of Dockyard is to be offered on Tuesday and Friday mornings, while a living arts walking tour, also free, is to be held on Thursday mornings. Both attractions begin in April.
A new information kiosk across from Bonefish has been funded by the Dockyard business, Diamonds International, and will be staffed by a Wedco intern.
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