Posted by: cruise2 | 7 November, 2011

Carnival Abandons Bermuda

by Kevin Griffin of The Cruise People writing for cybercruises.com

This year will see Carnival Cruise Lines offereing a total of fifteen cruises to Bermuda, by Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Glory, Carnival Miracle and Carnival Pride, but 2012 will see only one call, when 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 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 in 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 it was 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 RMS 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 it and do something about it. Perhaps Carnival’s passengers have told Carnival something that it has not passed on to Bermuda.

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