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Subsidies stopped for Margaritaville at Sea

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Staff Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

THE government has stopped giving subsidies to Margaritaville at Sea after the cruise company discontinued its one-way cruise travel to and from Grand Bahama, according to John Pinder, parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism.

The cruise line stopped selling one-way tickets from Freeport to West Palm Beach in December after US Customs and Border Protection determined that it violated US laws.

Mr Pinder said yesterday that negotiations are continuing with Margaritaville at Sea to resolve the issue.

“This is an ongoing conversation we are having with them,” he said. “We hope to have some resolution in a very short time. In the meantime, all subsidies have stopped, and anything further that the government has been helping that particular company has been halted as well.”

Mr Pinder noted that the primary issue involves the interpretation of a policy from US Customs and Border Protection concerning two types of cruises initially operated by Margaritaville at Sea.

“They have been acting as an open loop and closed loop cruise, which does not fall into any category that is legal on the US side,” he said.

He said the close loop cruise allowed passengers to embark, come to a destination, and disembark at the same location without an overnight stay, with just a government ID instead of a traditional passport.

“What Margaritaville at Sea was doing was having an open loop and closed loop at the same time, which is not lawful on the US side,” Mr Pinder said.

“So, when we had been abreast of this in early January, we had multiple meetings with Margaritaville at Sea to see how we can adjust their business model to see that they come into compliance with what US Customs and Border Control has interpreted their policy is, and be able to accommodate passengers from Grand Bahama.”

“We are in constant negotiations at this point trying to come with a resolution that would enable Margaritaville at Sea to accommodate their GB passengers as well as fall in the legal boundaries set by US Border and Customs Control.”

Pinder could not say how many subsidies the government has traditionally provided the company.

He noted the arrangement began several administrations ago to encourage the cruise line to bring passengers to Grand Bahama and for some passengers to stay overnight.

Terminating the one-way tickets from Freeport is significantly impacting Bahamian travel agents and travellers.

Donna Laing-Jones, who offers travel services, said Grand Bahama residents enjoyed the convenience of travelling on the Margaritaville.

“The discontinuation of Margaritaville’s service to Freeport and any perceived discrimination against Bahamians could potentially impact travel agents and lead to decreased demand for travel packages or bookings to the affected destination, resulting in fewer opportunities for agents to sell related services,” she said.

“It was an easy sell for travel agents. I loved to travel on Margaritaville and truly enjoyed the turnaround with family and friends; get off in West Palm Beach at 8am, do some shopping, and get back on the ship at 5pm; sit down to a nice meal, enjoy a show, and watch others gamble.”

Stacy Rolle, a straw vendor, was a frequent traveller on the cruise line’s ships.

“It is a big concern for me because I used to go over on it,” she said. “You get off in the morning and save on a hotel overnight and car rental.”

In addition to the savings, Ms Rolle said it was a big help, especially for Grand Bahamians who used the cargo service.

“It is a loss for us because many people travelled on it for those reasons,” she said. “When you go on Balearia, you have to come off in the night, and you would have to get a hotel and get a car.”

“I don’t know why changes were made, but I think the government should definitely try to resolve it.”

In a statement released early this month, Margaritaville at Sea said it had been serving Bahamian cruise travellers for one-way cruise travel since its inception.

The cruise ship now offers two and three-day excursions, carrying passengers from the Port of Palm Beach, Florida, to and from The Bahamas.

Comments

John 3 months ago

Get dem Reggie! They will stop anything that is successful and beneficial to Bahamians. It’s all about race and racism. Do you know why the Democrats doesn’t want to close the Southern border? Simply because they can’t stop the flow of migrants from Haiti. And because of the reproduction habits of Haitians ( they still love large families with five and six children not including those outside) . Blacks will not only become the official minority race in the United States again, and getting all the benefits, but Blacks can become the majority race in America in 20 short years. Especially since the white race is on a decline, they tried bringing more white people from Ukraine and other places but these people have a difficult time adapting to the American lifestyle and being so far away from home. Many want to return home despite the war. So they trying to balance things out by allowing in more Hispanics. And they are dispersing them throughout the United States, but mostly bin traditional Black neighborhoods. Blacks must now compete with these new migrants for housing, job and economic opportunities and health care. A similar situation exists in The BaHAMAS, where reports are that Haitians outnumber Bahamians as much as five to one

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