From Post & Courier
Charleston’s growing popularity as a tourism destination is showing up at the State Ports Authority’s cruise ship terminal, creating a need for an ever-more-delicate balance between filling market demand and maintaining
Charleston’s growing popularity as a tourism destination is showing up at the State Ports Authority’s cruise ship terminal, creating a need for an ever-more-delicate balance between filling market demand and maintaining quality of life.
The SPA will host 103 port calls from at least 19 different cruise ships this year, according to the agency’s cruise calendar, which shows a couple of visits from ships that have not yet been announced. Those totals compare to 96 port calls from 22 cruise ships in 2015.
As more cruisers want to visit Charleston, the SPA is looking to enhance its offerings while at the same time limiting annual traffic to a maximum of 104 cruise ships, with no ship carrying more than 3,500 passengers.
Jim Newsome, the maritime agency’s president and CEO, has repeatedly stated that a Charleston-size market can’t support any more cruise ships than the agency’s self-imposed maximum. Historic preservationists, who are suing the SPA over plans for a new cruise ship terminal, would prefer the market was even smaller.
While more port calls are unlikely, diversification of Charleston’s cruise industry — centered mostly on trips to the Bahamas — could be on the horizon.
For example, the SPA thinks the market is ripe for a cruise line offering trips to Bermuda. And the agency would like another home-ported ship to join Carnival’s Ecstasy as a regular visitor to Union Pier Terminal.
“If the domino theory takes hold with new ships, maybe we’ll get a shot seasonally,” Peter Lehman, the SPA’s vice president of cruise and real estate, told Cruise Industry News. “Let them come in and test the market and do an assessment after the fact.”
SPA spokeswoman Erin Dhand said Lehman’s comments “were general in nature about prospective interest in our port” and that the agency isn’t currently in negotiations with a cruise line looking for another place to call home.
Carnival has no interest in putting a second full-time ship in the city, saying one is enough to fill the market’s needs.
“Going forward, our operations from Charleston consist of one ship — the Carnival Ecstasy — year round,” Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz said.
The 2016 cruise calendar on the SPA’s website shows visits from ships carrying as few as 132 passengers on the Silversea Explorer and as many as 3,006 on the Carnival Sunshine.
Future calendars are filling fast, with Lehman telling Cruise Industry News that cruise lines are already reserving spots as far ahead as 2019.
The most frequent visitor this year will be the Ecstasy, which will replace the Fantasy next month as Charleston’s home-ported ship. It will make sailings to points in the Bahamas and Dominican Republic. Carnival also will bring its Sunshine to Charleston for five sailings — including a 10-day trek through the Eastern Caribbean — and the Pride, which will make a port of call in December.
Among the other cruise lines sending at least one of their ships to Charleston: Seabourn Cruises; Crystal Cruises; AIDA Cruises; Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines; Holland America Line; Azamara Club Cruises; P&O Cruises; Regent Seven Seas Cruises; Oceana Cruises; and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. ….MORE