Shame Ashore

Placencia wants no part of cruise ship tourism. We do not want cruise ships in our waters says this sign written in Creole in the town center.

National Geographic Traveler in its October 2011 issue highlights the approach that cruise ship lines take when dealing with small countries. Author Costas Christ in the Tales From The Frontier says that small countries face difficult choices – wanting the cash that cruise ships bring but wishing to avoid the pollution, congestion, and concessions cruise line honchos demand:

“Just weeks after reporting nearly $2 billion in profits for 2010, Carnival—the largest cruise corporation in the world—joined other cruise lines in insisting that Belizean tour operators, whose tenders transfer 100 passengers on ship-to-shore excursions, increase capacity to 150 passengers (to provide a smoother and more comfortable ride, according to Carnival). This would cost tender owners over a million dollars and take many months to do. To make matters worse, the cruise executives also insisted that we abandon a proposed increase in national park entrance fees—from $5 to $10 per person (among the lowest in the world, even with the increase). That increase, officials maintain, is desperately needed to better care for the same parks that receive high traffic from cruise passengers. When the Belizeans emerged from the negotiations, I learned that Carnival warned them that it might pull out of the country if its demands were not met.”

Source: National Geographic

Cruise Ship Tourists Never See The Best Features Of A Country

Cruise ships that come here do not offer visitors the best of our country as they all anchor offshore Belize City, as grungy, swampy and derelict a city as you will find on the Central American isthmus.  Overnight visitors in fact avoid this city entirely on their way to the safer and cleaner areas such as Placencia, Ambergris Caye and inland districts.

The experience of most cruise ship passengers  is limited to a “tourism village” operated by cruise ship interests in what is seen by locals as a cynical strategy to milk whatever dollars cruise ship passengers are trying here. The “village” is a fenced off collection of shops cobbled together from an abandoned government warehouse and in no way offers a genuine local experience. Residents are amused at the strains of music wafting over the muddy waters of the Haulover Creek that empties into the Caribbean sea just past the “village”. Retired local musicians croon American favorites such as My Way and I Left My Heart In San Francisco in the mid morning tropical sun.

The Costas article in National Geographic may inspire the local authorities to find more courage when next negotiating with the cruise ship companies. Last year the country’s prime minister suffered the indignity of having to head to the cruise ship boardrooms of Carnival in Florida to ensure that the ships continued calling here.