A recent letter acknowledged one important fact: the need to regulate cruise ships. The writer added that even the Fantasy, one of Carnival’s smallest ships, “is grossly out of scale with Charleston” and “overwhelms the skyline.”

The letter writer wondered if the conversation would “be the same if it weren’t Carnival Cruise Lines.” Yes. For the same reasons the writer gave.

These ships are grossly out of scale with Charleston’s colonial-era skyline. These ships are too close to the center city, and there is no regulation on their size or number, or on their noise, soot, traffic or other impacts.

Cruise ships, regardless of what name is stenciled on the side, don’t belong downtown. In major historic cities like Boston and Philadelphia, cruise terminals are located at their old Navy Yards, away from downtown and the historic districts.

Many people don’t understand that cruisers boarding “home-ported” ships like the “Fantasy” spend little money in Charleston because they aren’t visiting Charleston. They are taking their vacation in the Caribbean.

The reason that traditional and heritage tourists outspend them 10-to-1 is not because they’re going on a budget cruise line, it’s because they are going on a pre-paid cruise and are not here to tour and stay in Charleston.

Vacationers at every income level are always welcome in Charleston. But no small city downtown, especially a charming, historic city like Charleston, should damage its attractiveness and historic fabric by building a $35 million airport-equivalent cruise terminal for people who are merely parking here so they can go and vacation elsewhere. That’s why the Columbus Street Terminal near the Ravenel Bridge or the Veteran’s Terminal near the old Navy yard, conveniently located near major highways, would be far better choices for a cruise terminal.

Charleston’s small size has barely enough space for tourists who want to visit Charleston. What is at risk is that those tourists (and residents) who do spend money here, and don’t sail elsewhere, will have their Charleston experience spoiled.