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Tourists face Dockyard transport delays

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Waiting game: visitors from the three cruise ships in Dockyard waited for up to 30 minutes for a bus (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Tourists waited up to an hour for public transport yesterday as Bermuda welcomed a record number of cruise ship passengers.

Long queues formed at bus and ferry stops in Dockyard, where two cruise ships were berthed and a third was anchored at nearby Grassy Bay. Hamilton and St George’s each had one vessel at the same time — a total of five.

A sixth was due at Dockyard later in the day but had to sit at Murray’s Anchorage until a berth at Dockyard was clear.

It meant up until the Carnival Conquest left at 4pm, a record one-day total of 9,341 cruise ship passengers were expected around the island.

Some were caught in long queues as they waited for transport from Dockyard to Hamilton or the South Shore beaches.

Cao Wilson, from New York, said: “The bus is not frequent enough for a place like this — they should have constant buses.

“It’s ridiculous. The infrastructure is not up to the standard for all these tourists.”

Ms Wilson claimed she had arrived at the bus stop at 10am and did not leave until almost 45 minutes later.

Sara Kitts, 42, from Raleigh, North Carolina, and her husband, Rick, 44, spent their honeymoon in Bermuda and returned on the Disney Magic yesterday with children Richie, 12, and Jesse, 10.

They queued for transport to Horseshoe Bay but when a bus arrived it filled up with passengers before they had a chance to embark. Ms Kitts was told another bus would collect them, which was expected to mean a total wait of nearly 45 minutes.

She told The Royal Gazette: “We kind of expected some wait and some chaos, a little bit, especially getting out of the port, so we’re not too disappointed.”

But she said: “We will be if we miss the next one.”

Ms Kitts said the couple’s happy memories of their honeymoon and the island had drawn them back.

She added: “The people, how small it was and the beautiful waters, the shops and the local artists.”

Don Shaver, among a group of Carnival Conquest passengers from Michigan and Florida, said the island was “nice and clean”.

But he added he had a “long” wait of almost 50 minutes for a ferry to Hamilton.

It was at least another ten minutes before the ferry left Dockyard.

The 78-year-old added: “I thought we were going to be no more than half an hour.”

Hundreds of people waited to board at the Dockyard ferry terminal as tourism ambassadors assured them “another one’s coming”.

But The Bermudian, which has a capacity of 700, managed to clear most of the queue when it set sail at about 11.25am.

One worker at the port said the movement of the influx of tourists and traffic had been “so far, so good”.

But he admitted: “There has been a few little hiccups, people don’t want to wait.”

The man added: “We’ve got three ships in, you can’t service everybody at the same time. Everybody’s got to wait to some degree.”

Jerome Robinson, a minibus operator who was director of transport for the America’s Cup, was part of a large fleet ready to take visitors across the island.

He explained it was important to recognise the different needs of cruise ship passengers as some, like those on the Disney Magic, were more likely to arrange tours and activities before they disembarked, which meant less pressure on transport services.

Mr Robinson said: “When everyone was talking about ‘six ships’ I didn’t feel that it was going to be a problem.

“If we have a transportation plan for the day, for whatever is coming to Bermuda, it shouldn’t be a challenge, and it’s not.”

He added that some of the drivers had not picked up the hires they had expected.

But minutes later Mr Robinson and a colleague co-ordinated a private hire pick-up from a public bus stop.

He explained: “When you hear that sometimes people are up here waiting for the Government bus for one or two hours, the mini bus drivers always make a sweep around the Dockyard.”

Mr Robinson said private hire drivers were aware tourists could be annoyed by delays and did their best to step in and pick up any excess.

He explained: “They’re already frustrated, they’ve got their kids who are getting frustrated, so sometimes we just say, ‘let’s just get the people to the beach for $5 a person’.”

The Bermuda Tourism Authority said by noon, reports from operators were “all positive”.

Glenn Jones, the director of strategy and corporate communications, said crowds were moving “reasonably well” and public transport was running at full capacity but not overwhelmed.

Conditions meant some water activities were cancelled so visitors were directed to other island attractions and cruise passengers were said to have enjoyed a “smooth process” connecting with land-based tour operators.

The BTA thanked everyone “who played a role in preparing for this enormously high traffic day”.

Mr Jones said that Stacey Evans, section head of the Transport Planning Team at the Ministry of Transport and Regulatory Affairs, and her colleagues were “especially effective at co-ordinating all the relevant people and organisations to ensure the day was as well planned as possible”.

The Ministry of Transport said it worked with WEDCO, the coordinator of transport at Dockyard, to address “some minor challenges” relating to demand throughout the day.

A spokeswoman said reports showed at about 11.30am there was a queue for ferries to Hamilton which was quickly addressed by the Marine and Ports Department through the provision of extra service.

She said support from minibuses and taxis was “very good”.

Visitors from the three cruise ships in dockyard wait for up to 30 minutes for a bus (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Jerome Robinson, minibus operator (Photograph by Kevin Smith)