Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Wed November 11 2015

Bermuda Eyes Options To Expand St. George’s Cruise Calls

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | November 11, 2015

Bermuda Eyes Options To Expand St. George’s Cruise Calls

Photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority

Bermuda tourism officials would like to bring new cruise-ship visitors to the historic St. George’s district, but are frustrated by the port’s inability to accommodate large cruise ships.

At a recent town hall meeting reported in the Bermuda Royal Gazette, Francis Richardson, permanent secretary for Bermuda’s Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport, said “In spite of our best efforts,” only a handful of modern cruise ships can dock in St George’s, a historic district which tourism officials have struggled in recent years to revitalize.

“The Ministry, with the assistance of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, continuously encourages our cruise partners to consider St George’s as part of their itinerary plan,” said Richardson. St. George’s is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and remains a key Bermuda attraction, in part due to its stats as the Western Hemisphere’s oldest continuously inhabited English town, dating back to 1612.

Richardson said St. George’s will host five cruise ship visits in both 2016 and 2017, and added that the Ministry is in discussions with Norwegian Cruise Line to charter a ship for the entirety of June 2017, during which it would serve as a floating hotel in St. George's during the America’s Cup events.

Still, the majority of cruise ships calling in Bermuda continue to utilize King’s Wharf at the Royal Naval Dockyard facility, as contemporary vessels have largely outgrown Bermuda’s other docks in St. George’s and the downtown district of Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital.

Bermuda’s issues mirror other Caribbean and warm-weather ports where new, larger cruise ships are outgrowing existing facilities. Some destinations have lengthened piers and enlarged facilities to accommodate the larger vessels, as cruise lines are less inclined to moor ever-larger ships offshore and ferry guests to shore.  

Richardson observed that tendering passengers into St. George’s from a ship moored offshore ignited complaints when it was attempted with Holland America Line’s Veendam in 2012. Tendering “[is] not an ideal situation” and most cruise lines desire to avoid the practice, he said.

The Bermuda’s government’s exploration of cruise tourism options in St. George’s follows recent efforts to ignite land-based tourism development in the district, including last summer’s announcement of an “exclusive negotiation” with hotel developer Desarrollos Hotelco Group to build a new resort in St. George’s the site of a former Club Med.

The plan, announced in a parliamentary address by Shawn Crockwell, Bermuda’s tourism minister, calls for a 238-room hotel with an 18-hole golf course, 24 villas, 16 estate residences, a spa and fitness center, swimming pools and a casino. Government officials remain in negotiations regarding the resort, construction of which Crockwell said could begin by the end of 2015. 

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