Cruise Ship Crisis? No Ship in 13 Days!
posted (August 27, 2007)

There haven’t been any cruise ship arrivals in Belize for 13 days and after Carnival Cruise Lines made cancellations last week because of Hurricane Dean, widespread panic has enveloped the cruise industry. Today Minister of Tourism Godfrey Smith led a delegation to Miami where he will meet with executives of Carnival Cruise Line to urge them to come back to Belize. Smith says he will stress that no damage was done to the tourism infrastructure. But damage was done to the north, and we are informed that Smith has circulated a disaster relief wish list and will be asking the cruise lines to contribute critical needs such as generators, zinc sheets, nails, rice, beans and flour.

Before Hurricane Dean, three Carnival cruise ships visited Belize regularly; they are the Valor, the Glory and the Legend. The Valor and the Legend with their 6,000 passengers were expected to make a call on Belize last Thursday but the calls were cancelled because Carnival wasn’t sure how badly Belize had been damaged by the storm.

And the 3,500 passenger Carnival Glory that normally would have come tomorrow, has been deployed to the Eastern Caribbean indefinitely. But the good news is that according to local agent Eurocaribe Shipping, the Carnival Legend and the Valor are scheduled to return next Thursday September the sixth.

Carnival ships to return to Belize on Thursday...
posted (August 28, 2007)

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dean the cancellation of cruise ships calling on ports along the Yucatan peninsula was to be expected but even after the all clear had been declared in Belize, one cruise line extended its withdrawal. Last Wednesday local port agent for the Carnival ships, Eurocaribe, was asked for official confirmation that the English Channel was clear of silt and that all marker buoys were in place. The letter was sent from the Port Authority Commissioner the next day but Carnival had already decided to pull its ships from Belize for the rest of the week. The drastic move prompted a delegation headed by Minister of Tourism Godfrey Smith to move up travel plans to Miami in order to make courtesy calls to all the cruise lines in order to assure them that Belize’s cruise ship industry has not been affected by the storm. This morning Director of Tourism Tracy Taegar-Panton told us that the group will also use the opportunity to lobby the cruise lines for additional business.

Tracy Taegar Panton, Director of Tourism, B.T.B.
“We are open, we’re ready for business. We have the infrastructure in place, the capacity to host additional ships, especially during this low season and our hope is that we can improve on our cruise ship schedule. There are a number of ships going to Mahahual that have not been coming to Belize but the shift could be made very easily from Mahahual, to Belize and onto Cozumel and so we are hoping that we can sell them that idea of keeping the ships in the Western Caribbean rather than taking them to the Eastern Caribbean.”

Janelle Chanona
“Do you think that we would be, I know you say we’re ready, but do you think we’ll be able to facilitate those extra people?”

Tracy Taegar Panton
“We are able to, in terms of infrastructure on the ground, in terms of the tenders, and the trained tour guides, tour operators. Yes, the infrastructure is in place to host extra ships.”

The Mexican cruise port Mahahual sustained substantial damage as a result of Hurricane Dean and is not expected to be back on line for at least six months. According to Eurocaribe’s Martha Williams, while the Carnival Glory will not call on Belize until December eighteenth, the Valor and the Legend will get back to its regular schedule starting on the sixth of September. This time of the year is considered the off season as the cruise trade normally picks up steam at the end of October.

...but cruise tourists complaints mean trouble
posted (August 28, 2007)

And while those working in the cruise tourism sector are anxiously awaiting the Valor and the Legend next Thursday, an even bigger problem is brewing in the Belize City habour. News Five’s Janelle Chanona explains.

Tracy Taegar Panton
”I think that it has gotten to the level where the cruise lines say, you know, either you fix it or we leave.”

At the height of the season, more than six thousand cruise ship passengers and crew disembark at the Fort Street Tourism Village and either head off to destinations in the district or take tours of the city. But according to industry insiders, a significant number of those visitors have been making serious complaints against Belize, criticisms that could see the ships stop coming to port.

Tracy Taegar Panton
“The primary concern is the whole organization and management of the immediate area outside of the tourism village. You know, all that from the Tourism Village to the Swing Bridge, there needs to be some zoning in terms of traffic management in the area, moving the vendors off the street side because it just creates a lot of congestion. And we have a tremendous amount of harassment of our visitors which is a major concern. There are visitors who are afraid to leave the gates of F.S.T.V. because they are accosted by the various groups that are working outside.”

According to Director of Tourism Tracy Taegar Panton, at the request of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, this week Minister of Tourism Godfrey Smith and members of the Belize Tourism Board are meeting in Miami to discuss the situation. Panton says part of the solution would include a craft and vendor market.

Tracy Taegar Panton
“Change is always difficult and— but I think the vendors have seen the impact of this week where we’ve lost three ships and I think they would be much more open to making the move. I had taxi drivers and tour guides approaching me and saying whatever we can do to help to bring back the ships. We certainly don’t want to lose ships, it’s harder to get them back and I think the vendors will be open once we can put the infrastructure in place. The resources are there as you know Janelle, the Local Government Tourism Development Fund was established which is being funded by three agencies, the B.T.B., PACT and the F.S.T.V. and hopefully we can go to the F.C.C.A. with tangible projects and definitive timelines for when those projects will be in place.”

Panton and Mayor Zenaida Moya met this afternoon to discuss the latest developments regarding Belize City’s cruise industry. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

Live and let live