Ship stuck at port in St. Maarten called on St. Thomas 2 days earlier
Published: March 15, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The plight of the Carnival Dream cruise ship, which left St. Thomas on Tuesday and is now stuck in St. Maarten with a failed generator, raises questions about what effect recent cruise ship disasters will have on the territory's tourism industry.
The mega ship, which can has a passenger capacity of more than 3,600, calls on St. Thomas every other week and is next scheduled to visit March 26.
WICO President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boschulte said that the Dream's itinerary for next week has been cancelled, but Carnival has not yet determined whether the itinerary for the following week will be affected.
If the Dream misses just one port call to St. Thomas, the territory could lose between $600,000 and $700,000 in fees, taxes and passenger spending, Boschulte said.
"So, it's significant to our economy for a ship of that size not calling," he said.
Boschulte said the president of Carnival, Gerry Cahill, spoke at Cruise Shipping Miami - formerly known as SeaTrade - earlier this week.
The cruise ship industry finds itself in a precarious situation following a number of problems plaguing cruise ships in the last few years.
Last month, a fire in the engine room of the Carnival Triumph left the ship adrift in the Gulf of Mexico for days. Passengers described horrible conditions with sewage seeping through the walls, food shortages, and power outages.
In January 2012, the Costa Concordia struck a rock off the coast of Italy and slowly flooded, listed onto its starboard side and partially sank. All but 32 of the 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crew members aboard were rescued, and to date 30 bodies have been recovered and two others are missing and presumed dead.
At Seatrade, Cahill addressed the recent Triumph disaster as well as the 2010 fire on board the Carnival Splendor, Boschulte said.
"In his comments, he did make mention that the cruise line was preparing for the future and taking precautions," Boschulte said. "From our perceptive, this is another dent in the armor of the cruise ship industry."
"When the president spoke, he was very concerned with the situation, and they know that the future is going to be testy, and having another incident happen this soon after the Triumph is not good," Boschulte said.
Carnival is WICO's largest customer, so if travelers start turning away from cruising or even just from booking Carnival sailings, it will have a big impact on WICO and the territory as a whole, Boschulte said.
"We clearly are concerned with the outlook," he said. "We need the ships to come, but we need them to come full."
WICO is using the Dream's situation in St. Maarten as a learning experience.
As St. Maarten officials work with Carnival to get the Dream's passengers off the ship and on planes back home, Boschulte said his staff is reviewing its safety and emergency protocols in case a similar situation was to take place on St. Thomas.
"Four thousand people have to fly out of St. Maarten," he said. "Where do all these people go? Where do they stay? How do you make it happen?
"At least this time you're not adrift at sea," Boschulte said, referring to the Triumph, which was powerless in the water for five days while it was towed back to shore.
The problems with the Dream's generators occurred while it was in port at St. Maarten.
V.I. Tourism spokeswoman Allegra Kean-Moorehead said it is too soon to know whether the recent incidents will have long-term impacts on the cruise industry or the territory's tourism revenue.
"I can't speculate on that. I really don't know how that will affect people's perspective of cruising," she said. "It's definitely an unfortunate experience for the cruise industry, the passengers and everyone involved. I hope it won't deter people from traveling."
- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email email@example.com.