‘This is a shambles, everyone is getting mad’
Hordes of smiling tourists rushed off the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship yesterday excitedly clutching maps of Bermuda in their hands.Comments such as “Let’s go straight to Horseshoe Bay,” “We can eat in Hamilton” and “I’ve heard the Crystal Caves are pretty” could be heard.There were 2,500 people on board the Royal Caribbean ship and passengers were initially all smiles as they took in their new surroundings and posed for photos.But having walked from King’s Wharf to Dockyard’s bus/ferry stop their smiles turned to frowns as they realised they weren’t going anywhere in a hurry.Tempers flared as their introduction to Bermuda was spent waiting in line for public transport. These were not happy tourists, they had just over 24 hours on the Island and they had little hope of getting on a bus or ferry.It didn’t help that the ship, which should have docked at 10am, didn’t arrive until about 11am and passengers didn’t begin to disembark until nearer 11.30am.King’s Wharf was full of activity. There were three sightseeing pink and blue buses and 25 taxis waiting to take passengers on pre-booked tours of the island.There was also about 15 taxis and six minibuses, with their drivers touting for business, offering to take tourists wherever they wanted to go. Eve’s Cycles and Oleander were also offering bikes for rent.But by and large most cruise ship passengers opted for public transportation. They had been told it was the cheapest and most reliable form of transport and they were ready to put it to the test.Within minutes the line for bus and ferry tickets had attracted about 200 passengers. Some people scoffed at having to wait for about 20 minutes, but people seemed happy to part with $12 for one-day transportation passes. They told The Royal Gazette “friends recommended we take the bus,” “the director of the ship told us to get a bus pass,” and “the bus seemed like the cheapest option.”But once at the bus/ferry stop, it was a very different story. These passengers knew where they wanted to go, but they understandably became increasingly frustrated when they realised it wouldn’t be easy to get there.Confused tourists came to a standstill. They looked at their maps and flicked through their guidebooks, but there was no one to answer their questions.It was 12.05pm and these visitors wanted to enjoy Bermuda. Instead they were left looking around for buses and ferries.As a reporter scribbling notes on a notebook, I was asked: “Do you know about buses?” and “Can you help us please?” as I did my best to answer a host of questions.At least 50 passengers had gathered before a Department of Tourism official arrived at the scene to give out bus timetables. The question everyone wanted to know was “When’s the next bus?” but he didn’t know the answer.For about 10 minutes there were no buses and no answers. “I want to go to Horseshoe” and “How can I get to Hamilton?” were the questions constantly asked. But these people were going nowhere without any buses.Just metres away two Sea Express workers rather bluntly broke the news that tourists had a long wait for the next ferry.One of the ferry workers unhelpfully explained: “Because your cruise ship was late, we’ve been going back and forth with no passengers for an hour, now the ferries have stopped, it’s our lunch break.”Tourists looked shocked with their so-called Bermuda welcome as the ferry worker went on: “I’m afraid you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are no ferries until 1.15pm, that’s another hour, you can walk around then come back.”Tourists started to wait for the ferry regardless and at one point the ferry line merged into the bus line to ensue further confusion. The ferry worker said: “Bus people you’ll have to force yourself round there as you are blocking the ferry area.”The first bus to turn up at 12.18pm had the word ‘special’ on the front, which told waiting tourists absolutely nothing. People didn’t know where the bus was going and the driver offered little help. One tourist simply yelled: “Who cares where it is going, just get on it” and the bus left just minutes later. All the seats were taken and eight people were standing.There was then a sudden influx of tourists with as many as 300 people at the bus stop, all holding their transportation passes.At 12.20pm an ‘off duty’ bus headed straight past the bus stop. There was then a mad rush of people trying to get on the number 7 bus to Hamilton at 12.22pm. It left with no empty seats and ten people standing.Another ‘special’ bus going straight to Horseshoe Bay arrived at 12.32pm. The driver did not get out of her seat so passengers passed it along the line that the bus was “just going to Horseshoe, not Hamilton.”This bus left with six empty seats as passengers complained: “This really sucks, we want to get to Hamilton.”At 12.35pm a bus with ‘garage’ written on the front drove straight past to cries of: “I don’t believe it.” Then at 12.37pm an ‘off-duty’ stopped in the lay-by but didn’t open its doors.It was only at this point that a male dispatcher from the Bermuda Transportation Department arrived on the scene. He yelled that “buses only come every 30 minutes” and “it’s first come first served, so you’d better get in line.”Tourists tried to ask him specific questions, as he shouted: “Listen to me. If the bus is full, you have to wait for another one to come,” then warned people not to push in.The dispatcher then split the single waiting line into two lines; one for Hamilton and the other for Horseshoe Bay. People didn’t understand what was going on and this prompted more questions.Comments such as: “Are we going to fit on the next bus?” “Where did all these people come from?” and “We should have got a taxi” could be heard.The ‘off-duty’ bus eventually turned into the number 8 to Hamilton and as people asked questions, the dispatcher yelled: “Hurry up, hurry up, hello, are you listening? Whatever, we have to go. Goodbye, the bus is leaving.”Worried that the bus would leave without them, passengers piled on. The bus was sent on its way with two seats empty, even though passengers were waiting.At 12.45pm a replacement dispatcher appeared and questioned why tourists were standing in two lines as “there was only one line for buses.” Tourists tried to explain that they had been told to stand in two lines, but this woman didn’t want to hear it.“I’m here now and there’s just one line,” the dispatcher said. This is when voices were raised and things got heated. One tourist said: “The other guy just moved us here, he shifted us all,” and the dispatcher angrily replied: “Excuse me, I’m the supervisor round here.”The short-tempered dispatcher snapped back at tourists to “get over there” whenever they asked her anything. This lead to one woman saying: “Actually you’re being very rude.” In response the dispatcher sucked her teeth and said: “I’m doing my job.”The dispatcher used her radio to find out when the next bus would arrive. The tourists overheard the radio message that “one of the mechanics is just looking at the bus” and they joked: “Please don’t send us that one.”The dispatcher then made the unwelcome announcement that there would be no buses for half an hour. One woman in line said: “This is a shambles, everyone is getting mad,” while a man asked someone to save his place while he went to buy a beer.But at 12.50pm the number 7 to Hamilton turned up early. The dispatcher asked the driver: ‘How many you want to take?’ and the driver glanced at the crowd then replied: ‘How many you got?’There was an angry scene as a woman was refused entry to the bus as she had a suitcase. The woman said she’d “never visit Bermuda again” then the driver reluctantly agreed to take her to Hamilton, saying he was “just doing it to avoid the bad publicity.”The large crowd gathered attention from passing motorists who honked their horns. One truck driver even drove past and shouted: “Jump in the back for a free ride to Hamilton.”At 1.10pm the number 8 to Hamilton arrived and just 16 people were allowed on the bus, including myself. At that time there were about 100 people in line for buses and about 200 people waiting for the ferry.This bus stopped at just about every stop and was full with an extra 15 people standing up by the time it got to Somerset Bridge. Tourists gave up their seats for seniors and the bus whizzed past locals waiting on bus stops, including many Bermuda College students. The bus arrived in Hamilton about an hour later.The lengthy wait was certainly not the warm welcome cruise ship passengers had expected or deserved. Men, women and children were left angry, frustrated and feeling anything but love for Bermuda.