This morning, the local cruise machinery was well oiled and in high gear – and why not? After all, what’s known as cruise ship season starts on
thanksgiving – and this year – Belize is set to see a record number of cruise ships in port. So, several hundred tourism industry workers gathered
outside the Fort Street Tourism Village ready to receive more than 12,000 cruise passengers who should have disembarked from 4 ships.
But call it a wicked nor’easter, climate change, or what you wish - those 4 ships, 2 from Carnival Cruise Line and 2 from Norwegian, had a hard time
getting their guests to shore. Due to the strong winds and the choppy seas, the authorities onboard the Carnival ships decided that it would be too
dangerous to get their passengers into the cruise tender vessels. The passengers would first have to walk down a gangway and unto a tender that’s
swaying on rough seas – and then endure the eight mile journey to shore on those same seas. Seas so rough it even left an immigration officer seriously
seasick! All that meant that both Carnival ships cancelled their calls, keeping some 6,658 passengers away from Belize’s shores.
And that’s a cool million dollars in earnings that sailed away with those 2 ships….It was a big loss, and we caught up with some of the independent
tour operators , who say that this situation underscores the need for the Feinstein Group’s Stakebank docking facility which is still caught up in
Government red tape. Here's what they told us:
Valdemar Andrade - Director Cruise & Regional Initiative, BTB
"It's suppose to be our first 4 ship day for the high season. What happened, as usual in this time of the year we get northerlies and so we had a heavy
northernly with an impending cold front coming in. As per procedure, if the winds are blowing too heavy we don't risk tendering. So the two Carnival
ships decided to proceed to Roatan and we are now tendering the two carnivals ships as we speak."
Tom Greenwood - Local Tour Operator
"These ships have rightfully said, i'm sorry we cannot stay, it represents too much danger for our guests. We know that there are two carnival ships
and then there are two Norwegian ships. The Norwegian ships have stayed because I believe they have trusters that allow them to do the disembarkation.
But still it is a fickly situation, so we've lost 2 of the 4 ships already, we've been advised. This represents a huge lost to all the hundreds of
guides and tour operators and i'm not just talking about we independence, i'm talking about the larger tour operators that do hire a lot of native
Belizeans to do their work. It represents great lost and it is reflected in a single concept is that we should have had dockage long ago. This is why
we in the federation have hugely supported the stakebank project, the Feinstein project because we also at insistence of government acquired a solid
rock hard contract for our people to access stakebank and continual participation in this cruise industry."
Yhony Rosado - Owner, Cavetubing.com
"Each tour operator invests heavily a day before. You have to get your food ready, your buses ready, you fuel up, oil up. So it's a huge investment on
every tour operating company not only us, not only us as Cavetubing.com but every other tour company. So we invest a lot of money one day before, so
when the ships cancel like this; Imagine you've already cooked your chicken, you're already fuelled up your bus. Almost everything is 50 percent loss
so we need a docking facility. We heard about the one by port authority that went wrong. Now we have the other one coming by Mr. Feinstein and that's
the next hope. So we ask what ever powers, BTB, the government. We know it's a multi-million dollar investment, we the small people we invest thousands
and we cry. So we invest a lot of money right before the tour ships come, so when the tour ships don't come we make a huge lost on every tour operation
in Belize and tour guides already probably borrowed money because they knew they were going to make double today.”
For the record, both the FECTAB members and the BTB representative we spoke to today agree that this shows exactly why a docking facility such as
Stakebank is needed urgently. The passengers from the Norwegian Ships did disembark and participated in their tours.