One of the world’s largest cruise lines, Princess Cruises, has announced it is moving two of its largest vessels away from the Caribbean in 2009.
The revelation, apparently prompted by a boom in the UK cruise market, means that the 3,300-passenger Grand Princess, a regular visitor to Grand Cayman since the middle of 2004, will cease to visit the island after her last scheduled trip on 8 April.
The Italian-built, 108,806-ton Grand Princess had 15 visits scheduled to Grand Cayman between 1 January 2008 and 8 April, delivering a potential 49,500 passengers.
However, the current Port Authority schedule shows that no Princess cruises will visit Grand Cayman during the seven months between 8 April and 9 November when the smaller, 2,100-passenger, Sea Princess will make one of two scheduled visits in 2008.
Sea Princess is based in Southampton, making the long transatlantic voyage to visit Caribbean destinations, but has apparently proved to be too small for the booming UK market forcing her replacement by two larger vessels.
The other vessel being moved to the Princess Cruise lines’ homeport of Southampton, on the south coast of England, is the 3,782-passenger Crown Princess. Currently operating a variety of itineraries, Crown Princess last visited Grand Cayman on 28 November 2007 and has no scheduled dates on the island in 2008.
On 19 November, Princess will introduce the brand new 3,000-passenger Ruby Princess on the weekly Grand Cayman visits but there is no sign of any replacement for the 1974-pasenger Coral Princess. The Coral Princess was a regular visitor to Grand Cayman in 2007 but made her last visit to George Town on 28 November.
Industry experts are predicting that, in contrast to an estimated five percent fall in Caribbean cruising, 2009 will be a record breaking year for Southampton’s cruise industry. It is also anticipated that more of the larger and more luxurious cruise ships will be based out of the UK.
Princess Cruises are understood to have described the move as part of plans to develop and expand their Southampton operation.
The news comes after a 13 percent overall fall in Cayman cruise arrivals in 2007, a similar fall in January 2008 and a potential 12-13 percent fall in February 2008.
Responding to the figures, Tourism Minister, Hon Charles Clifford told Cayman Net News in a telephone interview on 28 February, “We continue to monitor the situation in regards to cruise arrivals. There appears to be some drop in demand for cruise packages to the Caribbean and an increase for other ports. Other mature ports in region have also recorded slight declines in cruise arrivals.”