A New Tide of Tourism

Ah, the Tourism Management Plan.  Well, that got slightly derailed when Historic Charleston Foundation decided it could, in spite of the 2014 moratorium, add candlelight tours in February.(1)  Now the plan is beginning to leave the tracks…before it’s released.

Carnival has announced that a second cruise ship will make five visits to Charleston next year.  That’s in addition to calls by the Fantasy, Carnival’s ship that’s already home-ported here.  According to the Post and Courier, “the Carnival Sunshine is a larger ship than the Fantasy, carrying about 1,000 more passengers and crew.”(2)   According to Carnival’s website, The Sunshine “has been doused with an extra dose of fun” to accompany her 3000 passengers and 1040 crew.(3)   One wonders if this extra dose of fun was brought to the attention of the Tourism Management Committee?

There can’t be a trend here, because according to State Ports Authority’s CEO Jim Newsome, the port will maintain its level of fewer than 104 cruise ship departures per year.  Remember that’s one of the voluntary limits that the SC Ports Authority (SPA) agreed to.  Mayor Joseph Riley said recently that there was a signed agreement with the SPA limiting cruise ship tourism.  Except that we don’t know of one.  Perhaps, Mr. Mayor, you could forward that signed agreement to us, and we’ll publish it with our next blog?  But “no worries,” as the kids would say.  Because there was that much-touted City Council resolution  passed in response to cruise ship concerns.  Except that that resolution doesn’t limit anything.  It only requires the SPA to notify the City a year in advance if those voluntary limits of 104 cruise ship visits and a maximum of 3500 passengers per ship would be exceeded.  What a happy coincidence, it turns out, that cruise ship schedules are created a year in advance.  Notification should be no problem; the problem will arise when that notification occurs.

The Post and Courier editorial board is on top of this problem.  Yesterday’s editorial, “More Cruises, More Questions,” asks the penultimate question.  “What might come next? The passenger terminal that the SPA wants to build would accommodate even larger ships.”(4)  Yes, it would. Union Pier is over 1800 feet long—enough to accommodate both the Fantasy and the Sunshine at the same time—although we’ve been promised that two cruise ships would never be in port at the same time.  However, Union Pier also can accommodate the largest ship now afloat.  No worries…

Except that the Panama Canal is being widened and, in anticipation, giant Post-Panamax cargo ships are already entering our port.  Add in that the Chinese middle class, the ideal target for cruise travel, is growing rapidly.  So bigger, wider cruise ships are sure to follow.  And that’s still not the worst problem.  That problem is President Obama’s unilateral gift to the ruthless, despotic Castro brothers—opening American tourism to siphon American dollars to prop up their dictatorship.  If Carnival Cruise Lines wanted a big gift, they got it.   Ironically, one of the Sunshine’s bars is “the already classic Havana Bar.”   So this is the ultimate question—what city do you think will be hosting some of those ships headed for Cuba?   Carnival’s ready, Charleston isn’t.  We’ll soon be “doused with an extra dose of fun.”

And what about those voluntary, unenforceable cruise ship limits?

There’s only one solution.  It’s not just shore power; shore power isn’t going to slow the rising tide of cruise ship tourism.  It’s not a head tax, although money to offset the cost for police, fire and rescue equipment required for every ship visit could really help.  The only permanent solution is to move the proposed cruise terminal away from the Historic Districts and downtown, farther north to the Columbus Street Terminal closer to major highways, so that passengers who are destined for the Bahamas or Cuba don’t overrun and kill what remains of Charleston’s charm and quality of life.   If they want to see and appreciate Charleston’s history and culture, they’re welcome.  But for those cruisers who just want an ice cream and a t-shirt, they certainly don’t need to drive through town and park on valuable waterfront land to get them. Then Union Pier could be sold at a much greater profit to the SPA and prudently developed to provide a breathtaking enhancement to downtown Charleston.

We’re certain the recommendation to move the cruise terminal away from downtown will be a key component of that Tourism Management Plan.

—Jay Williams, Jr
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Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr., published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and discussions about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is involved with various local organizations, the opinions he expresses are solely his; they do not represent the views of any organization or other individual.  Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. We present these blogs for C4 website visitors as an information source and as an additional way to chronologically follow the debates, commentaries and discussions about cruise tourism in Charleston.

Footnotes/links:

1)  Historic Charleston website – candlelight tours
https://www.historiccharleston.org/Museums.aspx

2)  More container volume, new cruise ship for Port of Charleston – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150316/PC05/150319463

3)  Carnival Sunshine – Carnival website
http://www.carnival.com/cruise-ships/carnival-sunshine.aspx

4)  “More cruises, more questions”  – Post and Courier editorial
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150319/PC1002/150319286/1506/more-cruises-more-questions