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Cruise line apologises for late decision to axe visits

Carnival Cruise Lines has apologised for the last-minute change of heart, but says it’s done nothing wrong by axing 11 out of its 12 planned visits to Bermuda. Government has little choice but to accept the cancellation as a huge financial loss to the Island because the cruise ship company never signed a contract. The 2012 scheduling negotiations between Carnival and bosses at the Ministry of Transport are understood to have taken place via e-mail. It is understood that Carnival indicated its intention to make 12 voyages to the Island next year and Government confirmed that there was berth space available. But with no legal document in place, Carnival has been able to slash its presence in Bermuda to just one trip without any kind of penalty. The late cancellation will be a huge blow to Bermuda’s economy as it is expected to result in a “considerable loss” of revenue. Transport Minister Terry Lister remains in the dark about why Carnival pulled the plug on its Bermuda’s sailings, but the decision was probably based on negative passenger feedback. It has been suggested that public transport problems that left cruise ship passengers stranded in the summer and casinos being unable to operate while in port could be to blame. A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Lines said: “Although quite some time ago we had requested berths for several Bermuda calls in 2012, we ultimately only scheduled one voyage. Therefore we did not cancel any cruises that were actually scheduled and open for sale. “However we did just recently notify the relevant people in Bermuda that we would not be needing those slots as our ships will be operating alternate itineraries. “We have conducted some internal research to determine why the notification was not made earlier and have implemented new processes to ensure that this does not happen again in the future. “We apologise to our partners in Bermuda for not advising them of this situation sooner.” Talks between Carnival Cruise Lines and Government are continuing but the cruise ship company has refused to provide any reasons for its reduction in service to Bermuda. But Terry Thornton, Carnival’s senior vice-president of marketing planning, has recently been reported as saying the company was trying to incorporate “new and unusual Caribbean ports” into its itineraries for 2011, such as Roatan, Aruba and Curacao. Mr Thornton has also publicly sung the praises of St Maarten “for making big strides and attracting Carnival’s cruisers.” He said St Maarten had “taken things to the next level” with a cobblestone shopping district and a beautiful beachfront area. He said: “They’ve done a fabulous job of watching what cruise customers want and really going ahead and building around that, putting important funds behind it to make the experience good for people. St Maarten can be held up as a superlative example of port development.” By the end of this year four different Carnival Cruise ships, the Carnival Pride, Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Glory and Carnival Miracle, would have visited the island on 15 separate occasions. But the only trip scheduled for next year is the Carnival Pride, which will visit Dockyard on April 22, 2011. Cruise ship schedules are often drawn up two years in advance with cruise ship companies such as NCL and Royal Caribbean already confirming their interest in Bermuda for 2013. However, Carnival is yet to show any interest at all in visiting Bermuda in 2013. Businessman Henry Hayward, who is Bermuda’s representative for cruise ship companies, said the loss of revenue from the 11 cancelled visits would be “quite a considerable loss” to Government and local businesses. He said: “People are talking about the impact it’s going to have, it’s not good news at all. “Unfortunately none of us have been able to determine the reason. I don’t know and Government doesn’t know. “When it comes to scheduling cruise ships always take into consideration the comments they have received from passengers. “After each cruise passengers are asked to make comments about what they did and didn’t like and that information would have been analysed for future scheduling. “They want to go to the ports that get them the most money, the ports that most people like. Something obviously made them come to this decision.” Mr Hayward speculated that the most likely reasons were people’s frustrations with bus and ferry cuts in Dockyard and the loss to the ships’ revenues caused by the closure of casinos when in port. The former St George’s Mayor added: “The fact that they had put the application in then they turned around and changed their mind was the biggest surprise. “It’s very unusual for this to happen so close to the beginning of the season. Sometimes cruise lines change one or two dates at this late stage, but nothing like this.” Mr Lister has previously announced that the 12 Carnival sailings were approved in late 2010 and it would be difficult to find replacement ships at such late notice. He said he was “extremely disappointed.” However, Mr Lister did not respond to requests for further comment yesterday.

Carnival Cruise Lines has apologised for a last-minute change in scheduling which has seen it drop 11 of 12 planned visits to Bermuda next year.