According to official figures, and allowing for disruption by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, total cruise ship arrivals in 2007 fell to pre-2003 levels.
Although official Department of Tourism figures for 2007 are still to be released, data obtained from the Port Authority website shows the total number of cruise shippers to visit Grand Cayman in 2007 was 1,718,099, down by 212,037, or 11 percent, over 2006.
Although the total fall in numbers is a bit less than was generally expected, the December 2007 figures show a drop of 45,785 arrivals over the last month of 2006. This year-to-year fall, from 210,247 passengers in 2006 to 164,462 in 2007, represents a nearly 28 percent annual drop and also accounts for almost 22 percent of the year’s total fall in arrivals.
In a month that is regarded by many as a peak period for cruise arrivals, the figure also represents the largest single monthly drop during the whole of 2007. Only August, with a drop of 44,426, comes close to matching the figure and September, showing 41,169 fewer visitors, was the next worst.
According to official statistics, in 2007 cruise arrivals exceeded the previous year’s figures in just three out of the twelve months. Since June last year the figures have shown a steady drop.
2008 has also not got off to a good start. On 2 January, bad weather severely disrupted tendering in George Town harbour, with vessels and passengers being moved to calmer waters at Spotts to complete transfers.
During what passengers described as, “chaotic” conditions, hundreds of visitors were put ashore only to find that conditions were too rough for them to rejoin their cruise ships.
Some spent up to two hours on tenders with limited facilities before getting back to the cruise ships, and others endured long waits on shore while problems were sorted out.
The following day, two other Carnival vessels successfully moored at Spotts.
Also during the first days of 2008, the authorities closed the Sand Bar due to dangerous conditions, forcing many visitors to cancel planned trips to the popular tourists attraction.
Similar conditions on Monday, 21 January forced three cruise ships, Ocean Village, Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Imagination, carrying a total of 6050 passengers, to bypass Grand Cayman. The two Carnival vessels had been involved in the troublesome 2 January visits.
Another problem, which surfaced while researching the arrival figures, is that Cayman Net News found the data may not even be a true reflection of how many people are actually taking advantage of the opportunity to visit Grand Cayman.
A query to the Department of Tourism revealed that the arrival figures listed on the Port Authority website reflect the total number of passengers carried on the vessels, not the numbers that come ashore.
Therefore, on 2 January seven cruise ships are listed as bringing nearly 18,000 visitors to Grand Cayman although, giving the prevailing conditions, observers are confident that the numbers actually landed were far fewer.
While compiling the December 2007 figures it became clear that, in many cases, the figures being used actually represent the total passenger capacity of the vessel rather than the true arrivals figure.
While many of the vessels may have been operating at 100 percent capacity over recent weeks, an industry insider said it was extremely unlikely this meant that every single passenger went ashore at every stop.