According to a story in the Wall Street Journal today (Saturday, Feb. 25), titled "Island Traffic Jam," Belize is now the # 8 largest cruise ship destination port in the Caribbean Basin. The top 10 in order, with number of passenger arrivals in 2005, are:
1. The Bahamas 3,349,000
2. Cozumel 2,304,000
3. U.S. Virgin Islands 1,912,000
4. Cayman Islands 1,799,000
5. St. Maarten 1,488,000
6. Puerto Rico 1,315,000
7. Jamaica 1,135,000
8. Belize 851,000
9. Antigua & Barbuda 467,000
10. St. Lucia 394,000
Belize was by far the fastest-growing Caribbean cruise destination in the 2000-2005 period, both in total passengers and number of ships.
The article focuses on the crowding that can occur in some ports, especially on islands, such as Cozumel and St. Thomas, when several large ships arrive on the same day. New ships, such as Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, carry up to 3,500 passengers and are longer than an aircraft carrier or 15 blue whales in a row. For Belize, it suggests that places like Placencia get few cruise tourists.
The article rehashes the pros and cons of cruise ships for the destination countries. One authority, the USVI tourism commissioner, says that while overnight visitors spend four times as much as each cruise passenger, the "immediate economic impact" of each cruise ship visit is US$200,000 to $400,000.
here's the article
Island Traffic Jam
By REED ALBERGOTTI and CANDACE JACKSON
Wall Street Journal
February 25, 2006
Michelle Kass thought she had found a pretty tranquil spot when she and her husband took a trip to Playa del Carmen on Mexico's Caribbean coast. Then the cruise ships came in.
"It was like a stampede," says the 45-year-old teacher from Neenah, Wis., of the passengers who arrived from the nearby port to shop and eat in the little town center. "We would go have a drink at a bar and wait it out."
One of the brightest spots in the travel industry lately has been the enormous growth in the $15 billion cruise industry, particularly in the Caribbean. But while that's good news for cruise operators, it's also brought oceanic traffic to unprecedented levels in one of the world's premiere leisure destinations. Already busy islands are seeing even more people spilling onto their shores, like Grand Cayman, where nearly 1.8 million cruise passengers disembarked last year -- up more than 700,000 from five years earlier. Places where big ships rarely pulled in are suddenly hectic, with the tiny Central American nation of Belize greeting more than 400 ships in 2004, up from about 70 in 2000. And it's only getting worse, with new megaships in the pipeline that can carry nearly 6,000 passengers at once -- 50% more than today's largest ships.
The number of people sailing to the Bahamas jumped 33% from 2000 to 2005, to 3.35 million a year -- more than 10 times the number of actual residents. Last year, more than 1,000 ships sailed into Cozumel, off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, unloading 2.3 million people into an area a quarter of the size of Rhode Island. And on St. Maarten, a mountainous island in the eastern Caribbean ringed by colorful coral reefs, 1.48 million cruisers now visit annually; that comes to an average of 253 people per square mile every day, up from 148 five years ago.
While the overall number of cruise passengers to the region dipped by 2% last year over 2004 because of route changes and a strong hurricane season, new ships rolling out this year are expected to lead to strong growth this year.
What this means for travelers paying up to $1,300 a night to stay at some fancy resorts is beaches crowded with flash floods of day-trippers. At the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, the concierge says guided tours now fill up with the cruise crowd before he has a chance to book the hotel's guests. Traffic on the main road from the port in Grand Cayman to the popular Seven Mile Beach is so backed up in the early afternoon, guests at the Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa are advised not to travel. And at the $255-a-night Bolongo Beach Resort in St. Thomas, staffers recommend guests stay out of town midweek, when the bulk of the ships call. "You definitely don't want to run any errands on Wednesdays and Thursdays," says Colleen Doumeng, the hotel's sales and marketing director.
It's also a challenge for the cruise lines, who increasingly find themselves looking for new harbors to let their passengers off. "The traditional marquee ports of the Caribbean cannot take all of the traffic that there is today," says Adam Goldstein, president of Royal Caribbean International, which in recent years has added stops in Belize and Panama. Places like Havana and Cartagena, Colombia, adds Mr. Goldstein, are on the line's radar for future ports, too. The industry's expansion is fueling debate about how much it's helping development in a region almost entirely dependent on tourist dollars.
CARIBBEAN CROWD CONTROL
See the growth in ships and passengers over a five-year period at popular spots across the region. http://ambergriscaye.com/art/cruiseshipfacts.jpg