We took our first and last cruise a couple of weeks ago on Carnival and I want to affirm that, when they announced that they were cancelling Belize (after the 24 hour guarantee period had passed, mind you), they attributed it to safety issues. Our small contingent did not believe this - these things do not arise overnight. One puts out a request for proposals or bids, and then goes through a process that would take a year at least, it would seem. We assumed that it had something to do with putting the squeeze on local service providers, or even on the Belizean goverment itself to force concessions.
The only thing that did seem reasonable in the discussions about the tenders was the insurance coverage that I read about on our return - but again, that would be part of the negotiation of the original contract for service, not something changed at the last minute.
I noted to that, in their high-pressure sales to shop the port shops, and to take the established excursions that they also slandered local shop owners and tour providers as being untrustworthy.
The three of us did our level best to ensure that every moment spent off ship was spent as much with local people as possible, and that we spent our funds with local merchants!
They diverted us to Costa Maya, where we went to the little, as yet unspoiled village of Mahalual (?spelling). I read with distress on the area's Wiki page when we had returned home that this little hamlet is slated to become one of those gated port-malls.
While everywhere we went was pretty, and this was our first warm trip, so everything was inspiring, we were very disappointed that Belize had been removed from our adventure. My son is thinking of emigrating there and we were looking forward to getting to know it a bit.
All the best.
The indication that there was safety issues involved in the issue with the tenders was said repeatedly, over the loudspeakers, posted around the ship, and in a letter. That there has never been an incident in many years of service provision, as mentioned on your website and others, was definitely not mentioned, nor were the financial negotiations. There is definitely an opportunity to highlight the safety record and history of the negotiations to the world media.
In regard to the other matters, I have the shore shopping guides which refer to only the stores identified as being recommended and guaranteed, the implication being that those not identified are suspect. The other document that might be useful to get would be a brochure distributed at the "Ship and Shore" initial event, promoting the shore excursions offered by the ship, which starts with a line about them being licensed and insured (with the implication that others are not). I have only a portion of that as I used the back for scrap paper. It was more in verbal presentations that they raised concerns about local merchants and service providers. (About this, though, I wonder if there is not some sort of entrepreneurial development that could take place that would move the market to a place of a fairly set price for product as advertised, where the price is the price and there is not this effort to keep reducing the price to the bottom - we are not big buyers and when we refused things it was discomfitting to have the merchant come back with a lower and lower price, even though we said it was not the price influencing our decision not to purchase. Where we bought things we paid the price requested if it seemed fair - why should things cost any less than at home? I sort of wonder what this attitude does to overall negotiations - are the cruise ship companies always thinking there is a lower price if they just hold out a little longer? What does the encouragement of haggling by tourists do to islanders' perception of tourists - if you really need to make a sale to feed your kids, and yet someone essentially forces you to take far less than what the item is worth, what do you think of that person? How do you treat the next one?)
I think there is likely an emerging market for small boats for conscientious travellers (think simple living, slow food movements, etc.). It is great to travel from place to place by boat, but I would never want to be a part of the system that takes so much away from the communities from which it gains benefit. It would have been really super to be handed, when whe reached the outide of the ports, a locally produced newsletter/newspaper which highlights local businesses, news, and offerings, and includes information about local associations which provide quality assurance. Not done in gloss the way the cruise related material is, but with a real down-home feel so people can see the difference.
The gated ports should be prevented to the fullest extent possible. Something funny though - the one at Isla Roatan is very badly finished - a painted concrete pier that turns into a skating rink in heavy rain leads all passengers directly into a duty free shop which has a floor tiled in what are supposed to be wall tiles, evidently. I wonder how many slip and fall injuries were reported that day!
I will keep following this.