Viking cruises add more dates but gloom as St George’s misses out
Ferries taking passengers from the Viking Orion cruise ship to St George’s have been stopped due to ‘logistics and cost’ in a blow to East End businesses.
However, the cruise operators have announced that the ship is extending its homeporting in Bermuda by another six weeks.
The Viking Orion was originally scheduled to anchor at Murray’s Anchorage – a 30-minute boat ride from shore – as it is too large to dock in St George’s. The stay-over was cancelled owing to lack of availability of a tender boat to ferry passengers.
But the ship returned to St George’s and provided a tender for three weeks before announcing last week that the tender would be discontinued.
Joe Simas, Vice President of marine operations at Meyer Agencies, the ship’s agents, said: “It was too expensive and difficult logistically to ferry people to shore. It is hit and miss with the weather – if the weather is bad you can’t do it. It is a disappointment for St George’s but in the long run it will work out better for Viking.”
He said there will be six extra inter-island cruises starting on August 13 with St George’s missing from the itinerary.
The Viking will be in Hamilton on Friday and Saturday, at sea on Sunday, in Dockyard on Monday and Tuesday, at sea on Wednesday, and in Hamilton on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He said land tours for passengers will run on Mondays starting on Monday, July 19.
Kristin White, owner and operator at retail store and tour guide Long Story Short, said St George’s businesses would be unlikely enjoy many benefits because of the cancellation.
Ms White, who had to cancel ten weeks of tours that were previously fully booked, acknowledged that there are land tours – buses that will ride cruise passengers to St George’s – but said that they were not enough.
She told The Royal Gazette: “There are land tours but a bus takes 20 people and a ferry takes 400. For me it has scuppered my tour because they [passengers] don’t want to add on extra transport costs.
“There is also the issue that the land tours don’t give people a lot of time here. Usually they take a look at the ducking stool, take a walk down Water Street and that is it. My tours are 90 minutes.
Ms White said that four local organisations are affected by the loss of her tours alone – the Bermuda National Trust whose property is on the tour route, St Peter’s Church, another stop, and Doreen Williams who provides information about herbs and wild plants.
“As a town we get told that we are a ghost town but that is not true – we are here working hard to put on a good visitor experience. But we are not going to open if there is no one here.
“We need the infrastructure – it’s always the case that there is not enough transportation. It has been ongoing since I have been involved in tourism – certainly since 2012.”
Jennifer Turini Ysseldyke, programming and operations manager at Tobacco Bay, and PR and marketing manager at The White Horse Pub and Restaurant, both in St George’s, said: “It’s extremely unfortunate.
“The blows to St George’s keep coming. In a time where we all need tremendous help and support, it seems as though St George’s is consistently at the bottom of the food chain.
“Is there no other solution? Norwegian Cruise Line, while they do own their own ferry, never had any issues or complaints from their guests who would be ferried down from Dockyard to St George’s. And where is our public ferry? Is a basic public ferry from Hamilton or Dockyard to St George’s too much to ask for?
“It’s sad that government has chosen to neglect St George’s when it comes to the ferry system. I’m not saying a public ferry has to run every day, five times a day. But why can’t they give us a few days? Heck, even a weekend? Leaders are quick to say ‘Bermuda Strong’ and ‘support local’, but how can this happen without the most basic avenues to do so?
“All of Bermuda needs help, not just certain parishes. We’ve got excellent negotiators and creative thinkers in government and the Bermuda Tourism Authority. I’m sure if they really want to, they can find a solution. It’s time St George’s gets the respect it deserves.”
Robertson’s Drug Store posted on Facebook: “This is soul-destroying and frustrating. We will continue to find a solution to this. St George’s is one of the gems of Bermuda. It needs to be included. please support us.”
Neither the Ministry of Transport or the Bermuda Tourism Authority responded to questions by press time.