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Princess Cruises pulling out of SVG again

Princess Cruises pulling out of SVG again

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American cruise line Princess Cruises has pulled out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines yet again. This was confirmed by Minister of Tourism and Industry Saboto Caesar and Garth Williams, Manager of Shipping and Tours at Coreas, the agents for the cruise line.{{more}}

Williams explained to SEARCHLIGHT, during an interview yesterday, that Princess Cruises had secured eight berths at the Cruise Ship terminal for their ship Grand Princess for the upcoming cruise season, which normally runs from October to April.

Subsequently however, on checking Princess Cruises’ website, Williams said he noticed that St. Vincent was not listed as a destination on the ship’s itinerary.

“We realized basically they had canceled without informing us officially,” he said.

Williams said that the cruise line usually books berths between six to eight months in advance of the start of the cruise season. He added that Princess Cruises sometimes changes its itinerary, and may have booked the berths in case any changes had to be made. Williams, however, stated that Coreas will not cancel the bookings until they have received official confirmation from the cruise line.

Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism and Industry Saboto Caesar, during an interview with Searchlight last Friday, stated that due to the increase in oil prices, many cruise lines prefer to “do the more northerly, eastern Caribbean and western Caribbean cruises instead of coming so far south.” Caesar stated that this latest development is not unique to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

He however stated that though the cruise industry is important to the country, the Tourism industry is now working on securing more stay-over visitors as “stay over visitors have a higher marginal propensity to consume than persons who come on cruise ships.”

Caesar stated that there was an increase in stay over visitors for January and February of last year of 1.9 per cent, adding that there is a 7.2 per cent increase in yacht visits. Caesar stated that these are the areas in which there are higher expenditure levels by visitors.

He however emphasized that his Ministry is not sidelining the cruise industry, but basically accepting the fact that most cruise ships are focusing on the more northerly routes. Caesar added that other southern countries in the Caribbean are experiencing a fall off in cruise ship visits as well.

Williams, when asked to comment on the fall of in cruise visits to the southern Caribbean, stated that the American cruise lines are looking at where they deploy their ships simply because as of 2012, ships operating 200 nautical miles from the American coastline will have to use a more expensive but more environmentally friendly fuel. Williams stated because of this, cruise lines may be hesitant to travel far south and are concentrating on shorter tours closer to that 200 mile mark.

Williams agreed that the absence of Princess Cruises’ ships will result in a loss of income for the industry, especially in the area of tours. Last year, the Grand Princess and Sea Princess ships made nine calls to St. Vincent and the Grenadines; the larger ship Grand Princess called at Port Kingstown, while Sea Princess called at Bequia.

Williams also indicated that taxi drivers may also be affected, as some tourists from the Grand Princess were independent and would use taxi drivers to take tours around the country.

Reflecting on the comments by tourists during tours done throughout St. Vincent, Williams stated that while most tourists who journeyed outside of Kingstown rated our natural and historic sites highly, almost all the visitors complained about the conditions of the roads leading to the sites.

Those tourists who did not join tours, but walked around Kingstown independently, described St. Vincent as “unfriendly”, “unsightly” and “dirty” and questioned why they had come to this country. The issue of inacessibility of vehicles, sites and buildings by wheelchairs has also been raised as a shortcoming.

For those who took tours, the most liked areas were places such as Fort Charlotte, the churches, the Botanic Gardens, Montreal Gardens and Dark View Falls, Williams said.

Princess Cruise Lines first pulled out of St. Vincent in 2000, citing some of the very shortcomings present day visitors complain about.

While, according to Williams, no official word has been received this time from Princess, in August 2000, passengers complained about harassment, particularly in the area of the cruise ship terminal, the condition of Kingstown, the physical constraints of some tour sites and shortage of air-conditioned coaches to take all passengers on island drives.

The cruise line returned in 2003 after strenuous efforts had been made to clean up Kingstown and address other shortcomings cited by visitors.

The news is not all bad for this country in relation to the cruise industry, however. Williams disclosed that a new cruise line, Tui Cruises out of Germany, will be making its first visit to St. Vincent with the ship “Meinschiff”. According to Williams, the German cruise line will visit St. Vincent twelve times during the upcoming season.

Williams stated that, based on empirical evidence, Germans tend to take many tours , as German cruise lines offer all-inclusive packages which include tours as well. Therefore, although the numbers on the German ship may be less than the Grand Princess, more income may be generated from the tours. Williams stated that the Meinschiff has a capacity of 2600 passengers, while the Grand Princess’ capacity is 3600 passengers. He added that the German cruise ships will stay from 7 am to 8 pm in St. Vincent, as opposed to the Princess Cruises’ ships, which stay from 8 am to 5 pm.

Minister of Tourism and Industry Saboto Caesar is expected to hold a press conference today to discuss matters pertaining to the tourism industry.

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