I usually stay away from the political discussions here in favor of more fun (and sometimes less stressful) topics like food and wine, running and marathoning (I have a half in December and due to doggie duty have not started training. Oops), travel and now, the dog’s world. But this is a topic that I feel deserves mention. Cruise ships in Key West. Specifically, widening the channel into Key West to allow for larger ships. Should it be done? I say no. Cruise ships bring a lot of visitors to Key West. They come, drink, sometimes eat in the restaurants (although all meals are still provided on board, which frugal passengers note they have already paid for) and visit some museums. Perhaps a stop at the Hemingway House or the Lighthouse in between the Duval bar crawl.
I am not begrudging the bar crawl, by the way, as I often enjoy stopping in some of the bars for a cool beverage. However, there are relatively few businesses that truly prosper from short term (not overnight) tourists. Those businesses are owned by city commissioners and other bigwigs (or so they think).
It is not surprising to me that those individuals advocate spending millions of dollars to widen the cruise ship channel so the likes of the Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas can pull right in to Mallory Square and let over 6,000 passengers off at a time.
However, what our city officials forget, or simply don’t bother to share with the public is this:
Currently there are only two ships in the world that hold that many passengers. Other cruise lines like Carnival and NCL are building new ships that are only incrementally larger than their current ships. The newest Carnival ship, the Breeze is 1,004 feet (a mere 4 feet larger than the current channel can accommodate). The Allure of the Seas is a whopping 1,187 feet. Is the 6,000 passenger ship the way of the future? I don’t think they are taking over any time too soon. They are expensive and take a long time to build, for one thing. Thus, they are expensive to travel as well. I have had many clients call to book one of the behemoths only to find out the price differential between that and a smaller, but still fabulous ship and go that route.
Here is my question: When I have cruised, I have visited many ports that the ship does not dock. Rather, they anchor offshore and run tenders back and forth to the shore. Why can’t the larger ships do this? Are they unwilling to tender passengers at the risk of our reef and $35 million?
This is an issue that cannot be taken lightly. It also is an issue that should not be decided by the very people that stand to profit most from the channel widening. Sadly, it seems that is the direction we are headed.