Harbour Island resorts oppose cruising plans


Tribune Business Editor


Harbour Island resort operators yesterday warned the government it will hurt “the goose that laid the golden egg” if they try to make the island a cruise tourism destination.

Tom Sherman, owner and partner in the Coral Sands resort, told Tribune Business that making Harbour Island a weekly port of call for Crystal Cruise on its 16 seven-night voyages between July and October threatened to undermine the very essence of the island’s tourism model.

Besides an infrastructure that was unable to cope with the up to 900 passengers aboard the Crystal Serenity, Mr Sherman said the absence of mass market cruise tourism was one of the very reasons that had enabled Harbour Island to build up its high-end client base of boating visitors, hotel guests vacation renters and property owners in the first place.

Warning that this was now being endangered, he told this newspaper: “There’s no infrastructure to support the amount of people coming ashore. There’s not even a dock that’s acceptable. There’s no public bathrooms. There’s multiple reasons it’s the wrong thing for the island.

“The island is an attraction because we’ve not had cruise ships. Somebody’s trying to change the landscape. It might be good for Nassau, but not for Harbour Island. I think it was a short-sighted decision whoever made it.

“You cannot make an Out Island a major island. You cannot make a little Out Island, what they call the jewel of The Bahamas, a cruise ship destination,” Mr Sherman continued. “I don’t understand what the minister of tourism [Dionisio D’Aguilar] and the Prime Minister are thinking.

“I understand there’s the economic needs of the country, but if they shoot the goose that laid the golden egg they’ll be hurting themselves..... It’s not particularly good news for us who have investments in Harbour Island, no.”

Mr Sherman’s concerns were echoed by Benjamin Simmons, proprietor of The Other Side and Ocean View properties, who said that while he understood the urgency to revive the tourism product in COVID-19’s wake the cruise ship model was not aligned with Harbour Island’s high-end positioning.

“I understand that the economic climate is such that the government has to embrace any and all options to regenerate commercial activity,” he told Tribune Business. “I would say I would be slightly disheartened they would not recognise the value of a clientele that is not appreciative of the cruise ship product.

“Harbour Island is not traditionally a cruise ship destination. It may threaten the value Harbour Island has built up for that clientele over a period of time.”

Mr Sherman said Harbour Island hoteliers were due to discuss their Crystal Cruises concern with Mr D’Aguilar and Ministry of Tourism officials during a conference call today. The minister did not respond to Tribune Business messages seeking comment before press time last night.

However, one Harbour Island resort operator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “It’s a disaster for the Family Island product. We’re not a cruise destination. The only plus is that it’s happening at a time when the island is slow and there is an opportunity for local persons to make an extra buck.

“It’s a very divisive issue, but I don’t think big cruise lines are aligned with the Family Island product. It’s going to be a turn-off for our guests, our traditional clients. I think it’s a desperate idea that is incredibly bad for tourism on the island. Our clients will say it’s the end.

“They’ve missed the whole concept of Harbour Island. They’ve missed the boat. They don’t get it. They’re graffitiing the tourism product in Harbour Island. It’s akin to spraying spray paint on the Mona Lisa. Harbour Island is built on generational tourism, where season after season children come back, grandchildren come back. The cruise ship industry is the opposite of that. I’m gobsmacked.”

Another Briland resident, speaking on condition of anonymity also, said when informed of the Crystal Cruises plan: “I don’t want to hear that. First of all, the reason Harbour Island is desired by high-end tourists is because there’s no cruise ships. It will be a nightmare. People have these multi-million dollar homes here because there are no cruise ships.”

Mr D’Aguilar last week said he anticipated a minority might push back against the Crystal Cruises plan. He described the company’s plans as “a tipping point” for tourism and the wider economy as it will become the first cruise line to ever home port in The Bahamas through its multi-island schedule for summer 2021.

The minister of tourism and aviation told a conference call that Crystal Cruises’ decision to base one of its vessels in this nation for seven-day voyages exclusively in the Bahamas represented “a significant milestone” in efforts to revive tourism in both the near and long-term.

The upscale, luxury cruise line, which offers butler service for 30 percent of its passengers, will use Nassau and Bimini as home ports for week-long cruises set to begin on July 3. The Crystal Serenity will call on Harbour Island, Great Exuma, Long Island and San Salvador via an itinerary designed to boost to island economies, traditionally not on a cruise industry schedule, that are still reeling from COVID.

“This a milestone achievement,” Mr D’Aguilar said, speaking just one day after revealing that four cruise lines are presently in negotiations to use Nassau as their home port. “After a year of despair, uncertainty and doubt.... this will prove to be the tipping point for our citizens, tourism industry and nation.”

Jack Anderson, Crystal Cruises’ president and chief executive, said the Crystal Serenity will “offer a 100 percent Bahamian itinerary through to at least October” with the possibility that its exclusive stay in this nation could be extended further. “I think it’s very likely. No final decision has been made,” he added, when questioned by Tribune Business.

“We’re certain of one thing: These Bahamas cruises are going to sell out very quickly, and that will most likely encourage us to to extend.” Crystal Cruises is capping passenger numbers on the Serenity to 900 guests to ensure compliance with COVID-19 health and safety measures, especially social distancing.

Mr Anderson indicated that Crystal Cruises has selected The Bahamas for its sailing resumption because of the multiple destinations and island experiences it offers, together with the ease of complying with COVID-19 health protocols.


Sickened 3 years, 3 months ago

They don't have infrastructure for 900 day guests? During regatta i'm pretty sure more than that show up for the entire long weekend? Something doesn't add up.

whogothere 3 years, 3 months ago

Hmmm regatta doesn’t happen 16 times a year...this boat going to harbour island every week for 4 months...can you add it up now? And if you’ve ever attended a Briland regatta you’d know while fun it’s not exactly pretty - unless the market for crowded, garbage covered islands with people pissing and throwing up in behind every corner is in demand...

Sickened 3 years, 3 months ago

There's nothing to add up. One day a week 900 people will show up to Briland - that's it! Hundreds used to show up every day off of the Bohingi. 900 is not that great a number. I not a fan of cruise ship passengers but to say the island can't accommodate 900 people in one day is not true. The argument made in below posts are far better arguments against the cruise.

whogothere 3 years, 3 months ago

You’re missing the fact that 3 other cruise lines what do the same thing. It’s doesn’t matter if it’s one day or three. The words ‘cruise ship’ are toxic to this type of clientele. This isn t apples and apples making your basket fuller- this apples and worms - one feeds off and destroys the other - it’s happened time again all over the world..

ThisIsOurs 3 years, 3 months ago

Regatta is once maybe twice a year? I agree with the locals you will change the atmosphere completely with an influx of low spending tourists. Sure someone will make money but what makes the place, peace tranquility and remoteness will be gone. I swear we have no idea what we have which is why we consistently chip away at and desyroy it

JokeyJack 3 years, 3 months ago

If the residents and businesses of that island show up and serve the cruise passengers on ship day, then they will return again.

whogothere 3 years, 3 months ago

Well I think hoteliers and people saying they already serve a different sort of visitor - cruise ship passengers will discourage those visitors who stay for longer and spend more in the community from coming.


tribanon 3 years, 3 months ago

Neither Dumbo Minnis nor his simpleton side-kick D'Aguilar can think past their nose. And between them you can't find an ounce of common sense. But they both seem to have considerable personal skin in the game of 'selling-out' our country to certain of the very greedy 'all-for-themselves' players in the cruise ship industry, in particular Carnival and Royal Caribbean.

ScubaSteve 3 years, 3 months ago

Is this some type of sick joke? Is today April Fool's Day? The whole point of visiting the Out Islands is the fact that the cruise ships DON'T visit them. What percentage of the entire population of HI believes this is a good idea and would approve it? Yes, I'm sure there might be a few that are excited about it and would approve. But, if I had to wager... I'm guessing easily 75% or more would NOT approve this new strategy.

JokeyJack 3 years, 3 months ago

Let's see if 75% stay home that day. They wont though. They will come out like a herd of sheep and beg for bread.

ThisIsOurs 3 years, 3 months ago

and they will ultimately cry for the city that was.

A few weeks ago I overheard a conversation about a plan to erect a small food stand along a popular beach strip. I was horrified. The individual was speculating that they could have a little music and serve all the people who frequent the spot. He failed to realize in his grand plans that people frequent the spot for peace and tranquility. In all my years of going there I've never seen music played consistently. Maybe a rare 20min incident every 6 months. This story reminds me of that. Could his venture be successful? sure But guess what, the people he observed coming who just sit peacefully will stop coming. He will get a rowdier crowd, the ones who like his music, then he'll get the marijuana and drinking, next will come the fights and the people in the neighbour will rue the day he implemented his bright idea.

Clamshell 3 years, 3 months ago

This is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever seen, and in the Bahamas that’s a pretty low bar.

Cruise ships would destroy Harbour Island — the generational upscale homeowners/visitors who’ve kept that town alive would run for their lives; what you’d have left would be mobs of cheapskate day-tourists who’d overrun the place and spend nothing — cruisers are notorious for that. You wanna try to make a living selling trinkets to those low-end hordes? Jeezus. And once Covid is past, that 900 number would be 2-3 times as many.

My God, what could they be thinking?

proudloudandfnm 3 years, 3 months ago

When we lost our hotel in Freeport all we had left was cruise ships. Daily sales were practically zero with just cruise passengers. The only benefit of cruise lines seems to be departure tax. So these Harbor Island folk have a point. The cruise lines offer no benefit to locals, so their cons far outweigh their pros. Government needs to listen to these people and respect their concerns.

JokeyJack 3 years, 3 months ago

Good point, but i doubt if govt cares if sales and this VAT collection goes down or room tax goes down or NIB contributions go down - they will just raise VAT to 25% and then 50%. They already thinking about placing an income tax on all law abiding, NIB paying people.

Clamshell 3 years, 3 months ago

Another thing: Whatever dockage fees the cruise ships might pay would be sucked up by D’Aguilar and his political pals and the massive money sponge over in Nassau — none of it will be shared with Harbour Island and Eleuthera. Mark my words.

proudloudandfnm 3 years, 3 months ago

There will be no docking fees unless they visit Nassau. In the out islands they'll drop anchor and tender passengers to shore..

ScubaSteve 3 years, 3 months ago

Yep, you are 100% correct. I Googled this particular ship and it is huge. There is no way a ship of this size could dock at HI or Exuma or San Salvador. The ships will indeed anchor and tender the passengers to shore.

ThisIsOurs 3 years, 3 months ago

The medical tourism product proposed by Dr Sands for Freeport is a much better idea. but these guys just want to throw something together quick. They dont seem to have a strategic bone in their bodies

moncurcool 3 years, 3 months ago

Boy you could never do anything to satisfy Bahamian people. Do something they complain. Do nothing they complain. Jesus can't even please our people.

ThisIsOurs 3 years, 3 months ago

Not true.

What Bahamians want is a blue book. The book that says this is who we are and everything we do has to line up with what this blue book says we are. The brand of the family islands is peace tranquility, proximity to nature, beauty and remoteness. THAT is what people want when they say "I going to the island". This is not that. I coukd think of plenty other solutions that would bring in higher quality guests who pay more money.. but like Dame Joan I een want give them no more ideas to steal and botch.

moncurcool 3 years, 3 months ago

Ok, if that is not true, name me one thing that we as Bahamians did not complain about when it was announced?

Clearly if nothing happens we complain that nothing happeining.

ThisIsOurs 3 years, 3 months ago

Some nuances in what I said. You called it "complaining"...ok. I'm saying it's the wrong terminology. If someone constantly asks you to stop driving their car so fast on a bad road you could call that complaining too... or are they giving you "advice" or "point of views" that you should assess? Everyone who pointed out the cons of this excursion has identified valid issues. As to alternatives, from the minute COVID hit the givt was given more than enough sensible ideas, they chose to sit around for a year waiting for hotels to open and cruise ships to return then desperately grasp at crumbs. For some reason they seem to prefer to go with the solutions that sell off our country bit by bit...

DonAnthony 3 years, 3 months ago

I agree with you, our Bahamian people love to complain. This is an upscale cruise with the base cost $2000 per person for the seven day cruise. Will all 900 persons want to go onshore in Harbour island? Probably not. This is only for an inital run of 16 trips. Try it out, see how it goes, then complain or cancel the port stop.

Clamshell 3 years, 3 months ago

Uh ... ‘scuse me, but $2,000 for 7 days of lodging, food, drinks and entertainment is not “upscale.”

DonAnthony 3 years, 3 months ago

It is compared to costing half or a quarter the price on other cruise lines.

Clamshell 3 years, 3 months ago

“Compared to” does not make it upscale. Not by a long shot.

whogothere 3 years, 3 months ago

Doesn’t matter if 900 or 10 go what matters is the out islands will become synonymous with cruise ships an immediate turn off for current visitors - people that avoid Nassau for same reason...they are big spending repeat customers. If a large portion of that market base decide that it’s over (cruise ships are not for them) the revenue implications will be significantly adverse. Why would the b. Gov gamble with one of its jewels in its tourism product...why risk it.. if it isn’t broke why try to fix it...

concerned799 3 years, 3 months ago

The high end tourists will leave and won't come back. You don't get back international reputation in an instant like this.

Further, this assumes complaints would be acted on, and likely someone in government would talk about how their hands are tied due to prior agreements etc.

birdiestrachan 3 years, 3 months ago

Mr" D; Aguilla said that one hotel manager from Harbour Island called him and said the Government is doing all things right just continue what you are doing.

Are the person mentioned above one of those who called the Minister of tourism?

By now everybody knows what masterful liars these FNM fellows are,

Clamshell 3 years, 3 months ago

My wife was on Harbour Island one day when a guy pulled up in a golf cart to ask her directions. It was Mick Jagger. It was not unusual in high season to see Robert DeNiro or James Caan or Tom Hanks or Lenny Kravitz in a restaurant, or any number of international tennis and basketball stars.

You think those high-end visitors would keep coming if they constantly had to elbow their way through hordes of day-trippers from cruise ships? Uh ... no.

Economist 3 years, 3 months ago

Any cruise line will ruin Harbour Island's economy. They will scare away the very people who contribute to Harbour Island's success.

Proguing 3 years, 3 months ago

The ship goes to Harbour Island (which does not need it or want it), but not to Freeport (which needs it and wants it):


We've got to do better planning!

BONEFISH 3 years, 3 months ago

What you see here is a clash between competing visions of tourism. Somebody told me that this was going to happen some time ago.

concerned799 3 years, 3 months ago

Worst idea ever!

Ruin very high dollar per tourism to Harbour Island for a few t-shirt sales and departure taxes? Horrible idea.

Look folks, either the Bahamas becomes a low rent wasteland to feed into the growth of the cruise ship industry, which will always need to consume more of the Bahamas (Lighthouse Beach, now Harbour Island) OR the Bahamas says bye bye to the cruise ships and we get on with LESS tourists who spend vastly MORE per tourist and we end up with net more jobs, less environmental impact and control of our number one industry.

What's it going to be?

The fiction there can be "both" cruise industry + land based tourism clearly is not realistic any more.

Too late to have this debate, once all the product we have less to sell to land based tourists is gone! (eg. Lighthouse beach gone, no high end tourists going to Harbour Island anymore, and the hotels become permanently down market)

Sickened 3 years, 3 months ago

This idea should clearly move forward or be stopped by the people of Harbour Island themselves. If they are content with their economy and see it growing as it is now (which it most likely will) then they will most likely vote against is. If they see a brighter future with this sort of industry then they will vote for it.

In short... Let the people who live there decide!

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