This week’s release of deployment details for the 11 Royal Caribbean cruise ships which will be sailing in European waters next year was just the latest in a flotilla of similar announcements.
Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, NCL, Princess . . . they’ll all be flocking here next year to join our own P&O, Cunard, Fred Olsen and Thomson. Not to mention Italian giants Costa and MSC.
More ships are being built, and the cruise lines are pulling out of Alaska because of excessive taxes and stringent regulations, so the vessels have to go somewhere, and they won’t all squeeze into the crowded Caribbean.
Just how hectic it can get there is demonstrated not just by my picture of P&O’s Ventura and the Carnival Splendor together at Grand Turk (above) but by a snippet from cruise director John Heald’s blog.
He is currently working on board Carnival Dream, which can carry up to 4,600 passengers, and whose sister ship, Carnival Magic, will soon be in the Mediterranean.
Over to John:
“So here we are in St. Thomas and the sun shines down on us and the other ships in port. There are a total of 16,000 cruise ship passengers here again and I have learned over the last few weeks that it is absolutely vital that I tell our guests to allow extra time to return to the ship. For example, it takes about 15 minutes to get downtown in St. Thomas from your Carnival Dream.
“However, as most of the ships leave port at roughly the same time, most guests tend to come back at the peak time of 4 pm. I therefore ask our guests to allow 45 minutes to get back to the ship from the madhouse that is downtown St. Thomas.
“It is even worse in St. Maarten. You see in St. Thomas the Monster Mall of the Seas[he means Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas] docks over the hill at what is known as the Submarine Pier so at least their guests go in a different direction to the other three ships docked at Havensight.
“But in St. Maarten, the Monster is docked next to us along with the beautiful Emerald Princess and three other ships. Thus, all the guests come back to the same area . . . at the same time. There is no hiding from the fact that it is very busy and the lines for the water taxis and taxis are long . . . patience is needed for sure.”
Make no mistake, we’re likely to have similar problems even at bigger ports such as Barcelona, Malaga, Civitavecchia, Naples, Venice and Athens, and there’s a limit to how many passengers smaller destinations can absorb.
At least some of the smaller ships, like P&O’s 710-passenger Adonia, and the Olsen fleet for example, can get off the beaten track and away from the crowds. As the new brochures hit the travel agents, I’m going to have my atlas ready to pinpoint the location of places such as Bourgas Koper, and Zadar. They might even need some new guidebooks writing . . .