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Less favourable slots led to Carnival Cruise Lines cutting back its Island visits

Carnival Cruise Lines axed 11 of next year’s 12 planned visits to Bermuda because it couldn’t cash in on the prime time summer spots.The Grand Princess and Holland America Ryndam to Bermuda’s shores.

Transport Minister Derrick Burgess has revealed the cruise ship operator’s last-minute decision was based on it being given the “less desirable” berths.

Carnival Cruise Lines had wanted to visit during the week from May to September, as this is when ticket rates can match the high demand for cruises.

But these premium berths are currently occupied by Bermuda’s “long-term cruise partners” Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Mr Burgess said Carnival Cruises had made its decision in May this year when they realised Bermuda’s 2011 cruises were “not meeting their expectations”.

He called it “a business decision” which also took into account the lack of on-board revenue while in port, public transport problems and Bermuda’s stores being closed on Sundays.

Carnival slashing its presence in Bermuda in 2012 to just one trip is projected to cost the Island’s economy $3.8 million.

Mr Burgess said when Government first entered into discussions with Carnival in early 2010, they “expressed concern that Bermuda was not offering them the premium cruise berths at Royal Naval Dockyard”.

He told the House of Assembly on Friday: “The premium berths are from Monday to Friday, between mid-May and Labour Day.

“This is when demands for cruises to Bermuda are at their highest, and cruise lines can charge higher ticket rates.

“Our long-term cruise partners, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines, currently occupy these premium cruise berths, leaving the less desirable berths available for other cruise liners.”

Mr Burgess revealed the reasons behind Carnival’s last-minute decision in a Ministerial Statement given to the House of Assembly.

He said the feedback of passengers who previously visited Bermuda with Carnival had highlighted ”the combined impact of issues”.

Mr Burgess said the weather conditions after Labour Day had resulted in a number of service disruption, with later arrivals and some cancellations.

He said the cruise ship’s stores and casinos having to remain closed when in port had also affected Carnival’s profit.

The Minister also highlighted transport challenges and Sunday store closings also proving to be a challenge, saying: “lack of activity on weekends impacted their guests’ perception of Bermuda”.

Mr Burgess said both Carnival and the Ministry of Transport knew there were “considerable risks” as most visits in the 2012 schedule were going to be “weekend stays in the fringe months of the season”.

He added that no formal contract was required because of the “high degree of risk” Carnival was taking.

Mr Burgess said: “As there were no other brands available to occupy the weekend spots, that early or late in the season berths, it was deemed by the Ministry to be a risk worth taking.

“Hence the Ministry did not require a detailed contract with penalties for non-compliance.”

Mr Burgess said Carnival Cruise Lines had “sincerely apologised” for the late notification and Government had since managed to attract

But he added: “Though it was a business decision that Carnival felt that they had to make, it is inexcusable that Bermuda was not notified of these cancellations at that time.”

Mr Burgess said he would be working to drastically improve public transport and the possibility of cruise ships being allowed to open their casinos “late in the evening” would be brought up in the House.

However, Mr Burgess said the 2012 season would still “represent the second highest number of cruise visitors in Bermuda’s history”.

He went on to detail Bermuda’s 2012 cruise ship schedule, which is expected to include 163 cruise calls carrying about 363,000 passengers.

Mr Burgess said this would contribute $79 million to Bermuda’s economy, including Government taxes, on-island purchases and shore excursions taken.

“We have strategically positioned ourselves to be in an enviable position regarding our cruise product and Bermuda remains an attractive destination, not only for larger cruise lines that typically operate in the United States and the Caribbean, but also with the smaller, luxury lines that generally do world cruises with a stop in Bermuda.”

The 2012 cruise ship schedule will be available online in late December at www.marineandports.bm

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Published November 21, 2011 at 8:56 am (Updated November 21, 2011 at 8:56 am)

Less favourable slots led to Carnival Cruise Lines cutting back its Island visits

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