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Opposition MPs blame Govt for loss of cruise ship visits

Carnival Cruise Lines slashing its presence in Bermuda is nothing short of “an abject failure” by Government.

The One Bermuda Alliance and the United Bermuda Party have pointed the finger at the Ministry of Transport for losing the cruise ship company’s 11 out of 12 planned visits to Bermuda next year.

They are now calling on Premier Paula Cox to explain how this “embarrassment” was allowed to happen, especially after a $70 million cruise ship pier was built at Dockyard.

Carnival’s last-minute cancellation has been branded “inexcusable” and “a kick in the guts”.

It comes as cruise ship passengers air their views on the Cruise Critic website, suggesting that Bermuda’s lack of nightlife and casinos could be to blame.

An OBA spokesman said the huge blow to the economy comes after “a terrible cruise season” where visitors were “repeatedly left high and dry” by a transport system that failed to meet demand.

He said: “Carnival Cruise Lines’ decision to quit Bermuda is nothing short of an abject failure on the part of the Bermuda Government.

“To lose the business of the largest cruise company in the world after spending $70 million building Dockyard into a cruise hub is inexcusable.

“We call on the Premier to provide the people of Bermuda with a clear explanation why this situation has happened.

“People’s pay cheques and livelihoods are endangered by it, not to mention Government’s own coffers.

“This is an embarrassment for Bermuda in the world of tourism, sending a very bad signal to the cruise industry.”

The Royal Gazette revealed yesterday that 2012 scheduling negotiations between Government and Carnival had taken place via e-mail and no legal document had been signed. This paved the way for Carnival to have a last-minute change of heart without penalty.

It is understood that last week then-Transport Minister Terry Lister, who has since been replaced, remained in the dark about why Carnival pulled the plug on its sailings.

The OBA spokesman continued: “To learn that Bermuda did not even have a contract with the company is mind-boggling.

“To hear the Minister offer no explanation why this decision was taken, other than that he and his officials are trying to learn reasons from Carnival, indicates a weak relationship with a major Bermuda business partner.

“If e-mails or telephones aren’t getting answers from Carnival, why isn’t the Minister getting on a plane to meet face-to-face with Carnival?”

He added: “It’s been more than 20 years since Carnival started sailing to Bermuda. Surely, we deserve something more than this week’s abrupt announcement and the Minister’s unsatisfactory statements.

“Or perhaps reasons have been given, but the Government has decided not to tell the people of Bermuda.”

A joint statement from Kim Swan and Charlie Swan, who were elected as UBP MPs, called Carnival’s announcement “disheartening”, adding that it couldn’t come at a worst time for the tourism industry.

The statement said: “The shocking announcement by Carnival Cruise Lines is a kick in the guts to a Country that put the majority of its Country’s tourism eggs in the basket of the cruise ship trade.

“The former United Bermuda Party Government’s cruise ship policy guarded against an over-reliance of cruise ships and aimed to strike a necessary balance between cruise passengers and air-bound passengers that stay in hotels and guest houses.

“How could Government be engaging in a multimillion dollar agreement with no formal contract with Carnival Cruise Lines? With no signed contract it allows for all sorts of things to happen.”

The two MPs added that Government had failed to listen to tourism suggestions put forward by the UBP over the years so “Bermuda and its people must live with the results”.

The message board on the Cruise Critic website, which Mr Lister regularly monitors, sees more than 15 comments about possible reasons for Carnival’s reduction in service to Bermuda.

One person writes the Department of Tourism “has basically given up on actually getting Bermuda any tourists” then states: “They cannot keep complaining about the lack of tourists and blaming everyone else when they are not helping themselves.”

Another person wrote: “I do think it may have to do with no gambling allowed”. Another person mention’s Bermuda’s “strong religious influence” and how the churches are opposed to gambling. Another person simply commented: “It’s not like they have a nightlife.”

Other people suggested NCL “had a monopoly on the Boston to Bermuda run” and Carnival were not happy that they had not been given any prime season or high-revenue slots.

Another passenger wrote: “We sailed there the week of October 2 on

Carnival Pride. Guess we will have to find another cruise line if we want to go back anytime soon. Bummer.”

In recent months the Cruise Critic website has picked up on Bermuda’s public transport problems where cruise ship passengers were left stranded, and also the Island’s increasing crime rate.

The Ministry of Transport and Carnival Cruise Lines refused our requests for comment.

Visiting the Island: This file picture shows cruise ship Carnival Dream berthed at the new pier in Dockyard. Carnival Cruise Line will only be making one visit to Bermuda next year.

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Published November 03, 2011 at 10:17 am (Updated November 03, 2011 at 10:17 am)

Opposition MPs blame Govt for loss of cruise ship visits

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