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Bar Harbor Survey Could Mean More Port-Specific Cruise Ship Restrictions

28 Apr 2021

Another town is re-evaluating the role of cruise ships that visit its shores.

The town of Bar Harbor, Maine, is asking residents for their feedback on whether cruise restrictions need to be tighter, making it the latest port municipality to publicly evaluate the effect cruise tourism has on the local population.

According to News Center Maine, the port currently limits cruise travelers to 3,500 passengers per day in July and August and 5,500 per day during the rest of the year. But a recent survey is allowing local residents and business owners to weigh in directly with regard to whether those numbers need to be cut.

"I'm very interested to hear what a majority of our residents think and also to hear what the businesses think," said Town Councilor Gary Friedman, as reported by News Center Maine.

"Some believe that all businesses love cruise ships but that's just not true. Many of them don’t benefit and even feel that their businesses or hurt by the impacts of cruise visitation."

"... it's gotten overwhelming where it's impacting our quality of life here, as well as the businesses that cater to overnight guests," Friedman said.

It was not immediately clear when the survey would end or when the results would be shared.

Congestion is not a new issue for Bar Harbor, which sees about $1 million annually in revenue generated by the cruise industry. The town's official government website shows that a "Cruise Tourism & Traffic Congestion" study was conducted there in 2019 to analyze issues like parking shortages and the types of infrastructure needed to continue to welcome cruise passengers.

In 2020, Bar Harbor's town council voted to ban cruise ships for the entire year -- a move which was later found to have been unnecessary, thanks to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's no sail order and subsequent conditional sailing framework.

The port isn't expected to see any ships for the remainder of 2021, either.

As Bar Harbor reevaluates its cruise-related regulations, it becomes the latest port of call to question the effects of cruise ships and the large numbers of travelers they bring.

In recent years, Dubrovnik and Venice have placed limits on the size of cruise ships allowed to call and, as a result, they have also limited the number of cruise passengers permitted to visit at one time.

In November 2020, more than half of Key West voters leaned in favor of referendums allowing the local government to restrict cruise ship size and number of daily passengers.

That prompted two Florida state officials to introduce a bill that would undermine those policies. After passing in the Senate in April 2021, the bill died due to the state's likely inability to enforce it at a local level.

Juneau residents are also slated to vote on a referendum in October 2021 that could cut down on large cruise ships or limit the number of ships and passengers calling on any given day.

Cruise ports workers rally in support of cruise ships restarting sailings

21 Oct 2020

Longshoremen, hotel workers, port officials and everyone affected by the effect of cruise lines shut down held a rally across different cruise ports on Wednesday in support of cruise lines being able to restart sailings again.

Cruise industry workers rallied in Florida and Texas to tell lawmakers to allow the cruise industry to restart.

Cruise lines have been shutdown since March due to the global health crisis, and are currently unable to restart cruises because of the U.S. Center for Disease Control's No Sail order that prevents passenger service in the United States.

Rallies were held in Port Canaveral, PortMiami and the Port of Galveston to protest the shutdown and the effect it has had on all the jobs.

Photos by the Port of Galveston

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) stated cruise activity in Florida supports over 150,000 local jobs, contributing $7.7 billion in wages and salaries to Floridians across a variety of local sectors and industries. 

U.S. Senator Rick Scott went on Fox News Radio to talk about the work he has been doing to try to convince the CDC to work with cruise lines on a way to restart the industry.

Senator Scott was clearly upset with the lack of any kind of progress with the CDC, "not being responsive. I don’t get it. It’s like a black hole."

Government, said Scott, should do as he did when he was Governor, and “tell people yes or no” and “make the regulations really clear.”

“Tell me no, that’s an answer,” Scott said.

Why the CDC has banned cruise ships

If you read the opening portion of the No Sail Order, it explains early on out why the CDC believes cruise ships should not operate.

"Cruise ships continue to be an unsafe environment with close quarters where the disease spreads easily and is not readily detected," is the direct rationale for why cruise ships may not sail.

In order to prove this, the Executive Summary cites CDC data on COVID-19 cases aboard cruise ships.

"Cumulative CDC data from March 1 through September 28, 2020, show a total of 3,689 confirmed cases of COVID-19 or COV1D-like illness cases on cruise ships and 41 deaths. These data have also revealed a total of 102 outbreaks on 124 different cruise ships, meaning more than 82% of ships within U.S. jurisdiction were affected by COVID-19 during this time frame. In addition, four cruise ships still have ongoing or resolving COV1D-19 outbreaks on board. Recent outbreaks on cruise ships overseas continue to demonstrate that reduced capacity alone has not diminished transmission."

In addition, the CDC cited small-scale cases of the virus on a few sailings that have restarted outside the United States.

All of this lead the CDC to believe cruise ships, "would likely spread the infection  into U.S. communities if passenger operations were to resume prematurely in the United States."

7 hints & updates from Royal Caribbean on what's next

14 Oct 2020

Six Royal Caribbean executives answered questions from travel agents during a webinar on Wednesday that touched upon a number of changes, initiatives and plans for the future.

The potpourri of questions were on the topics of new ports, crew members, cruises restating and so much more, which provided some insight into questions many cruise fans have had for a while.

Some of these answers were hints, and others gave good indications of what to expect.

When will the 2022-2023 cruises be released?

Many cruise fans want to know when the new set of itineraries will be released for 2022 and 2023.

Royal Caribbean Director of Revenue Strategy, Brittany Briggs, said that typically new itineraries are released in November and December, and others in the spring.

"I don't expect that will be too much from that this year. So I would stay on the lookout for something and some communications next month on our opening."

When will the new cruise terminal in Galveston open?

We all know that the new cruise terminal in Galveston, Texas that will be able to accommodate an Oasis Class size cruise ship is delayed by a year, but is the terminal still on track for completion?

 Josh Carroll, Royal Caribbean's Vice President, Port Development, confirmed it will be opening in 2022.

"We were on target to have that terminal up and running in 2021, due to COVID that has been delayed and will now be opening the following year in 2022. So we're very excited to bring Oasis class to Galveston and that's on track."

When will Royal Caribbean cruise on the west coast of the United States?

Perhaps the longest running constant question among cruise fans is when will Royal Caribbean return to the west coast for cruises.

The exact question posed was about cruise ships visiting ports in Western Mexico, but the answer gave us a glimmer of hope that we might be closer to cruises returning to the west coast than we might have thought.

Mr. Carroll said the growth of cruises in Alaska will offer Royal Caribbean the opportunity to sail from the West Coast when the Alaska cruise season is complete, and it sounds like sooner than we think.

'We are always evaluating different homeport options, as you can see, we're growing dramatically in Alaska, which in Alaska is only a summer product. So we're looking at a number of different options for the winter."

"And we think that pretty soon we may have something exciting to announce."

Will Royal Caribbean add any new ports to visit in the Caribbean?

Many cruise fans are eager for new ports of call to visit to help spice up the choices, and it sounds like more itineraries are on the horizon.

Mr. Carroll said more ports are coming, including stops at Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic as part of the 2022-2023 deployment schedule for Oasis Class ships.

"You'll also see us start going to places more that we don't necessarily visit often today as we partner with those government and port operators to expand the infrastructure and guest experience capabilities,"  Mr. Carroll explained.

"I saw a question come through, for example, on Grand Turk, and we are looking in the Turks and Caicos and have some some opportunities there as well to be able to add those to our itineraries."

Will the Future Cruise Credit expiration dates be extended?

As of June 30, 2020, Royal Caribbean Group reported they had approximately $1.8 billion in customer deposits, which means there is a lot of future cruise credits floating around.

Every future cruise credit has an expiration date associated with it, and the question was asked if those FCCs would be extended.

Ms. Briggs said there are no plans right now to extend FCCs, "At this time we don't have any intention of extending the global suspension or Cruise with Confidence FCCs."

"However, any other FCC that's not related to those that have either already expired or they are expected to expire by the end of this year, we are extending those through March 31st of 2021."

"So you can book by March 31st 2021 for any sailing that is open through April of 2022."

How long to train returning crew members for cruises to restart?

With regards to cruises restarting, how long will it take to train crew members so that they can get up to speed on the new regulations and policies.

Mark Tamis, Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President, Hotel Operations, said there are already crew members in the training phase, especially as it relates to cruises from Singapore on Quantum of the Seas.

Mr. Tamis explained how the digital training works, "We really digitize a lot of our training. So the crew, whether they're at home or on the ship in their own time, can get the training on their own handheld device."

"We have all these training modules that are being delivered to our crew right now. So they're already getting up to speed about how they'll be bringing to life all the new protocols."

What was the original name of Perfect Day at CocoCay?

This was not asked specifically, but Mr. Tamis mentioned while answering a call about the success of Perfect Day at CocoCay that the island makeover had a very different name.

"I joined the brand maybe a week after Michael [Bayley] did when he moved over from Celebrity, I think the first conversation we had was about, and this is inside baseball information, was originally called Adventure World."

Four ports that probably wont get bigger cruise ships in the future

13 Jul 2020

Cruise fans love to dream of what new itineraries Royal Caribbean might announce next, and with that, opportunities to sail on different ships.  While Royal Caribbean has a large fleet of ships, not all of them can sail from every port.

Certain ports of call are hindered by structures and obstacles that effectively place a limit on the size of ships that can physically access these ports.

Here is a look at the major ports of call Royal Caribbean sails from regularly, and why you should not expect to see any larger cruise ships sailing from there anytime soon.


The Port of Baltimore is a popular embarkation port for the Northeast Corridor due to its proximity to the mid-Atlantic region, but Vision Class ships have been the ships to call the region home.

The reason you likely will not see any bigger ships from Baltimore is because of two bridges that block access to the port from the ocean, the Key Bridge (I-695) and the Bay Bridge (US 50/301).

One alternative is for cruises to sail from a nearby port not blocked by these bridges. Norfolk is one such port, and Royal Caribbean did operate cruises from here for a short time about 10 years ago.


Much like Baltimore, the Port of Tampa is hindered by offering anything larger than a Radiance Class ship by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Mega cruise ships cannot fit beneath the Sunshine Skyway bridge. The Skyway can handle cruise ships that measure 180 feet from the top of the waterline. But the mega ships can sit as high as 225 feet above the waterline.

One option is to build a new Skyway bridge, or raise part of it, so that mega cruise ships could pass beneath it.

A recent study of the issue estimated that building a new Skyway would cost $2 billion. It also would take two years to tear down the current bridge and four years to build a new one.

The span could be raised, but at a cost of up to $1.5 billion that would leave it closed for years. That option creates a "high risk of instability," the report said.

Even if the bridge issue was resolved, Tampa Bay's shipping channels are too narrow and would have to be dredged, which is expensive, difficult and highly regulated.

The most likely solution is to build a new cruise port west of the Skyway so that the larger vessels won't have to travel under it. 


Cruising in Australia has seen a boom in recent years, but Sydney is dealing with issues handling all these new ships.

Congestion at Sydney Harbour has forced Royal Caribbean to look for alternatives, since Royal Caribbean believes the cruise industry in Australia needs a cruise terminal east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in order to grow.

One solution was a new cruise port at Wollogong's Port Kembla Harbour. Another idea was a proposal for a cruise terminal at Yarra Bay, although that plan is been "put on hold with all industry and community engagement suspended".


The Port of Galveston seemed like it was about to overcome its issues with being able to support a larger ship, but those plans have at the very least been delayed.

Currently, Galveston can handle a Freedom Class size ship, but anything larger is out of the question due to limitations of the cruise terminal and the harbor.

Royal Caribbean had committed to building a new cruise terminal and dredging the bay, but those plans have been postponed by at least a year.

Until this work is actually begins, the Port of Galveston cannot handle larger cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - What to do in your embarkation city before the cruise

30 Oct 2019

Listen to the Show

Trying to figure out what to do in the city your ship leaves from in the day(s) before your cruise? Matt shares some good ideas in popular North American cruise departure cities on this week's episode!

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

On this episode:
Running time:

Royal Caribbean and Carnival sign deal to construct new cruise port in Saint Lucia

22 Oct 2019

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Carnival Corporation & plc signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Saint Lucia to manage the current cruise pier and terminal facilities in Saint Lucia, and work together to construct and operate a new cruise port on southern part of island.

Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean and the government of Saint Lucia will establish a long-term concession agreement to formalize the terms and responsibilities for the joint venture to manage and operate the current cruise pier and terminal facilities at the Port of Castries.

Additionally, the joint venture will design, finance, construct and operate a new cruise port in Vieux Fort on the southern part of the island that will be able to accommodate the latest and most innovative ships in the cruise industry.

"The cruise market is the fastest growing sector of tourism and in the next decade cruising in the Caribbean region is anticipated to increase by 40%," said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean. "We are excited to partner with the Government of Saint Lucia to ensure that the destination directly benefits from that growth, while giving more guests the opportunity to visit this unique gem in the Caribbean."

Under the new agreement, the joint venture would optimize the experience for guests visiting Saint Lucia while developing additional cruise infrastructure to support the industry's latest ships and promote the growth of cruise tourism on the island.

Royal Caribbean forms new joint venture to develop ports around the world

24 Jun 2019

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced today a new joint venture with ITM Group that seeks to develop cruise ports around the world.

The new company is called Holistica, and its goal is create an inclusive model for destination development that works holistically – thus the name – to meet the needs of coastal communities, local governments, and land, sea, and air travelers.

The first project for the new company is a $275 million development in Freeport, The Bahamas that is centered around the Grand Lucayan resort. The project includes ambitious plans for local ownership, employment, job training, community investment and sustainable construction practices.

In addition to the Freeport project, the companies said the new venture will own and operate destinations in Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Kumamoto, Japan.

The partners have commenced a search for a CEO for the new company, which will be headquartered in Miami. 

"The continuing growth and rising popularity of cruise vacations make it clear that the sustainable development of coastal destinations, including the thoughtful evolution of existing ones, is in the travel industry's best interest," said Michael Bayley of RCL. "We have spent five decades learning what works and what doesn't, and we know the potential of strategic development to deliver extraordinary guest experiences and meet the needs of local communities."

Added Bayley: "Having more destinations, and developing them in a responsible manner, gives travelers greater vacation quality, and expands the landscape of available travel options as the tourism industry grows."

Port and dock update: February 7, 2019

07 Feb 2019

We ran across a few quick updates on port news that have some impact on Royal Caribbean in the future.

St. Croix wants to handle Quantum Class ships

Caribbean Journal reports the US Virgin Islands Port Authority is exploring an opportunity to increase cruise passenger visits to the island of St Croix so that it could handle a Quantum Class ship.

According to the Port Authority, the plan would be to modify the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility in Frederiksted to accommodate Quantum Class cruise ships.

The largest ships that currently berth in St Croix have a max capacity of up to 2,501 passengers.

Victoria port expansion impacted by lost steel

CTV Vancouver is reporting a multi-million dollar dolphin extension destined to upgrade Victoria's cruise ship terminal has been lost at sea.

The piles were meant to extend Pier B at Ogden Point by 55 metres and allow it to serve bigger cruise ships like the Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas, which has committed to stopping in Victoria beginning this May.

The B.C. Pilots Association and Royal Caribbean International carried out tests at Pier A on Friday and it has been decided that for this summer, the Ovation of the Seas will stop at Pier A.

The replacement steel is expected to arrive in late summer from China. The extension is slated to be completed in time for the 2020 cruise season. 

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Staying onboard a Royal Caribbean ship while in port

25 Apr 2018

Listen to the Show

If there is one thing Royal Caribbean is best known for, it may be the incredible cruise ships it designs. When you go on a Royal Caribbean cruise, the ship is more than just a floating hotel. It is the epicenter of activities, shows, dining, entertainment, more food, relaxation, splashing, things to eat, competitions and more. So it should come as no surprise to hear when your Royal Caribbean ship pulls into port, there are a lot of folks who stay onboard instead of venturing on shore.

On this episode:
Running time:

Royal Caribbean enters into joint venture to upgrade Malaysian cruise port

17 Mar 2017

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd announced it has entered into a joint venture with Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) to upgrade and improve Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal (SPCT) in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. The upgraded pier will accommodate berthing of larger cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean - Legend of the Seas

Plans for the facilities include extension of the existing berths to 688 metres from its current length of 400 metres. This will enable the terminal to berth two mega cruise liners carrying over 4,900 passengers each at any one time.

In addition, the redevelopment will include spaces for tour buses to ease the flow of traffic in the areas around SPCT. The USD35 million project will further focus on improving accessibility for the aged and physically challenged throughout the terminal from ship to shore. This planned development has received unyielding support from both State and Federal government and associated government agencies including Tourism bodies, and will be a focal part of Malaysian Tourism EPP6 plan to create a “Straits and Borneo Cruise Riviera”.

Royal Caribbean will own a 40% stake in the venture, and the project will be managed by both parties.

Royal Caribbean is scheduled to make 38 calls in Penang in 2017.

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