Friday, January 4, 2008

Cruises: Love Me (not so) Tender

Cruise ship passengers returning to their vessels from a day ashore in Grand Cayman had a bumpy ride Wednesday afternoon. A cold front arrived in the area earlier than expected and caught some passengers aboard tenders in 8 to 12 foot seas that made it nearly impossible for them to return to their ship.

One of five ships calling at Grand Cayman that day, Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas opted to use their own lifeboat tenders rather than the larger vessels operated by local provider, Caribbean Marine Services. Problems began for the small lifeboats at about 1pm when the wind shifted to the north and exposed the west side of Grand Cayman to large swells. As a result of the high seas, Radiance of the Seas lifeboats were unable to safely offload tender passengers to the ship. Tender operations were temporarily suspended and all lifeboats were directed away from George Town Harbor to the smaller South Terminal, where passengers waited ashore before eventually being transported back to their ship. All-in-all, it took some passengers several hours to return to the cruise ship, with the last ones arriving on board at 5:30pm.

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas opted to bypass its Grand Cayman port call on Thursday due to continued rough weather; however, two Carnival cruise ships weren't deterred from using the alternative Spotts Dock to complete their scheduled itineraries without incident.

An interesting editorial in Thursday's Caymanian Compass urges the government to move swiftly with two-year old plans to construct cruise ship berthing facilities because, "Small tender craft bouncing around, offloading passengers in heavy surf while banging into cruise ships and piers could have easily led to disaster." Whatever the hold-up is, the editorial opines that, "Considering what happened in the harbor on Wednesday, we should be counting our lucky stars and not the revenues lost by the bad weather."

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