November 6, 2013 in Viewpoints

Letter from a concerned citizen….

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Dear People,

You do well to be concerned about cruise ships in Charleston.  I lived in St. Thomas for 27 years and watched the development and growth of the Cruise Ship Industry down there up to and including the point where the entire island was Cruise Ship dependent.

The Cruise Ship Industry is parasitic–not symbiotic.  They devastated St. Thomas in many areas–the hotel industry, the local restaurants (back on board before dinner and a bag lunch provided for those who debarked) and the local businesses.

On St. Thomas the progression of the relationship with the onshore businesses began with backroom deals with some stores where the ships promised to steer traffic (via deals made with the Taxi Assoc.) to their stores and not others.  Money changing hands off the record.

I sold handmade seed jewelry at a lookout in St. Thomas for 20 years.  The cruise ships promised the Botanical Gardens gift shops to take passengers to them and bypass the local vendors (that’s me–and others) selling at the Drake’s Seat lookout.  But not all the taxi men were complicit–small islands breed personal relationships and the vendors had longstanding relationships with many of the drivers–and others, bless their hearts, just didn’t like to be told what to do and were sympathetic to our plight.

The ships (via the St. Thomas Taxi Assoc.) then sent a man to sit up at Drake’s Seat and take the license numbers of all taxis that stopped there informing them they wouldn’t be allowed to ferry cruise ship passengers unless they cooperated.  Since the cruise ships by then were the mainstay of the economy the threat had clout.

In the end we lost about 60% of our trade–which still speaks well for the brave 40% that couldn’t be bullied.  Anyway it did the local businesses no good in the end.  (I had to go looking for part-time work to supplement my income–others just went under.

Last time I visited St. Thomas I heard from more than one tourist that Carnival Lines was telling them not to buy ANYTHING on shore–that they could beat any onshore price right on the boat….well really!!!

In short, in case you haven’t gotten the message already, the cruise ships are rapacious and seeking as much of a monopoly as possible over the tourist dollars they are ferrying around.  They’re not into sharing and care not a damn about the welfare of the local populations where they dock.

I’m very glad your group is in place to keep an eye on them.  Perhaps my experience may prompt you to include certain up-till-now not considered clauses in your limitations of  how they behave in Charleston.

Thank you for your concern and work

All best wishes,
Eve Herbst

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