The surprise news has broken in Bermuda that after fifteen calls this year by Carnival Cruise Lines, the line has cut back its 2012 program from twelve calls to just one next April. The curious thing is that no one seems to have said why this is happening, except that Carnival have planned alternate itineraries elsewhere. In the UK, meanwhile, in another chase for revenue maximization, Royal Caribbean will abandon winter cruising from Southampton in favour of warm weather cruising from Fort Lauderdale for the foreseeable future. But P&O will have two ships running from Southampton instead. Ans back to Carnival again, after ten years of no increase, that line is hiking its recommended daily gratuities per person by 15%.
Carnival Abandons Bermuda
This year will see Carnival Cruise Lines offering a total of fifteen cruises to Bermuda, by the Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Glory, Carnival Miracle and Carnival Pride, but 2012 will see only one call, when the Carnival Pride visits on April 22. Although Carnival had reserved twelve berths in late 2010, it did not inform Bermuda that it would not be coming until the last week of October, not long after the Carnival Glory had just made her inaugural visit to Bermuda with 2,940 passengers.
The ultimate result seems to be that shortly after that news broke, Bermuda Transport Minister Jim Lister was relieved of his cabinet post. Why?
Maybe because he was on board the Glory on October 19 and no one from Carnival told him.
Maybe because no contract had been signed for the dozen calls and all negotiations had been done by email. Maybe because he had not gone to Carnival headquarters in Miami to cement the deal – after all Carnival is a new customer for Bermuda.
Or maybe because the transport infrastructure at Dockyard, of which he was in charge and where all the Carnival ships berth, is inadequate. There have been tales of 45-minute waits in long lines in the baking sun for a ferry or bus to the island’s capital Hamilton, a $35 taxi ride away from the two new cruise piers at Dockyard.
Bermuda has a problem when it comes to cruise ships. The newest are all too big and can’t get into either of the island’s traditional ports of Hamilton or St George’s. Of all the ships that call into Bermuda on a regular basis, only one, Holland America’s Veendam, docks in Hamilton.
Other ships come and go but the regular sailings from New York and Boston all now have to berth at Dockyard, a place that has all the personality of the King’s Grill cafeteria on the Queen Mary 2 (soon to be the largest ship in the Bermuda merchant marine).
Carnival Cruise Lines apologized for not having told Bermuda it would not be coming and said that it had “conducted a review to determine why Government was not informed its Bermuda schedule was being cut back from twelve visits to just one. Although quite some time ago we had requested berths for several Bermuda calls in 2012, we ultimately only scheduled one voyage.”
The company went on in its statement to say “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 apologies to our partners in Bermuda for not advising them of this situation sooner.”
An apology certainly beats having to pay any penalties.
For his part, Mr Lister said “We were surprised to only learn of the cancellations on Wednesday. This has put us in a unfortunate position for next year, because it will be difficult to find suitable replacement ships at such a late date. We are extremely disappointed by this late notification by Carnival Cruise Lines, but we will make every attempt to fill some of the empty berths with ships from other cruise lines. It is highly unusual for cancellations to occur so close to the beginning of the season.”
A Government statement added that the “Ministry of Transport generally finalizes cruise applications 12-18 months in advance of the actual sailings and the twelve Carnival cruises for 2012 were approved in late 2010. Carnival was notified of the approval soon after they applied for the berths.”
The odd thing is that, according to the Government, Carnival had not told them why they were leaving, although there are two strands to this. One is that ships often stay overnight in Bermuda but they are not allowed to open their casinos while in port. Another is the issue of getting around the island from the faraway berths at Dockyard.
Many believe it was faster, or at least more enjoyable, in the days when passengers tendered in to Hamilton from the Great Sound, but those were also the days when usually only one large ship would come at a time, for example Queen Elizabeth 2, Oceanic or Kungsholm.
But now there are two cruise ship piers at Dockyard – King’s Wharf, which has been in existence for some time, and Heritage Wharf, opened in May 2009. These two facilities can accommodate ships carrying up to 6,000 passengers, something that puts a huge strain on the transport infrastructure.
One thing is certain and that is that Bermuda should find out why Carnival has abandoned them and do something about it. Perhaps Carnival’s passengers have told Carnival something that it has not passed on to Bermuda.
Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog at thecruisepeople.wordpress.com