Windjammer cancels more cruises

Windjammer Barefoot Cruises’ ongoing financial problems have forced it to cancel more sailings.

In a message posted on a Windjammer online message board Tuesday night, Windjammer Operations Manager Danny Walsh said it canceled sailings on the Legacy for Saturday, Nov. 24 and Dec. 3.

The Miami Beach company now aims to sail Dec. 8, but it’s clearly testing the patience of some of its devoted customers .

”There are just so many difficulties, obstacles and legal issues that stand in our path,” Walsh wrote in the posting.

Walsh vowed that Windjammer will issue complete cruise refunds to customers “in a short time.”

None of Windjammer’s four vessels has sailed in weeks. It had planned to resume operations with the Legacy and use profits to get its other three tall ships sailing sometime next spring.

Before Legacy can sail again, however, Trinidad’s Maritime Services Division must first conduct an audit of the ship’s management company. The audit may take place next week, a division official said.

Meanwhile, credit-card processor NCMIC Finance of Clive, Iowa, last month sued Windjammer, alleging the cruise company continued selling cruises despite an “inability to provide the cruises already paid for by customers.”

Customers began demanding refunds, resulting in charge-backs that depleted funds set up in a reserve account for such purposes, NCMIC claims in its suit. It wants $500,000 placed in escrow so other charge-back claims can be covered.


St Thomas to St. Johns might be a problem!

ST THOMAS, USVI: Two US Virgin Islands ferry companies, Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services, have issued a statement indicating that they plan a major reduction in the number of daily runs between St Thomas and St. John “within days.”

Particularly hard hit would be shift workers who travel back and forth between the two islands, and St John school children who travel to St Thomas to attend secondary school, as well as those attending private schools on St Thomas.

Many cruise ship visitors disembark in Charlotte Amalie (St Thomas) for the day, and then take the St Thomas ferry to spend the day on St John. Also, those tourists headed for a beach vacation on St John arrive and depart the USVI at the Cyril B. King airport on St Thomas.

The two franchise owners notified USVI senators and other officials through their attorney last Thursday that they could no longer continue to “use any private, family or personal funds, assets or collateral …to fund (ferry) operations.”

Libya shoots itself in the foot? cruise passengers refused!

From the evening of 11 November, visitors without an Arabic translation of their passports have been denied entry, even if they have valid visas.

Libya is the only Middle Eastern country to take such a step.

Correspondents say the sudden change of policy appears to go against Tripoli’s recent attempts to promote itself as a western tourist destination.

No warning of the change was given to foreign embassies.

“It was completely out of the blue” an official at the British Embassy in Tripoli told the BBC News website.

“The consular department has written to request an explanation and we haven’t received a reply yet.”

Official complaint

Switzerland has lodged a formal complaint to Libya after about 40 air passengers on board a Swiss carrier were denied entry to Tripoli on Sunday.

The travellers were forced to return to Switzerland on the same plane later that evening.

More than 170 passengers on board a charter flight run by France’s Air Mediterranee had to do the same. They were not allowed to get off their plane which had landed at Sebha airport, in southern Libya.

A passenger on board the P&O cruise ship Artemis has contacted the BBC to say the vessel was not allowed to land passengers in Tripoli on Tuesday morning for a planned day trip.

A P&O spokeswoman said the vessel was heading to its next destination, Malta, earlier than scheduled.

Libya’s status as a tourist destination has grown since UN sanctions were lifted in 2003.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, unveiled a plan in September to protect and promote Libya’s ancient archaeological sites and unspoilt Mediterranean coastline.

Spirit of Nantucket….. the cause displayed!

It measures 40 feet in length and is 7 to 8 feet tall, and is about 13 feet wide and estimates are that it weighs 30 to 40 tons. It appears to be mostly of solid timber and has the remnants of metal plates and spikes in it.

“It looks like a section of an old, very old, blockade chain that was used to prevent entry of vessels into rivers or bays,” said Tom Ruszala, director of nautical operations for Cruise West, the company that operates the Nantucket.

The mass is 40 feet long, 7 to 8 feet tall, and about 13 feet wide.

It has several wooden posts sticking out of what used to be its top. They look as if they might once have been bollards used as mooring lines for ships.

The mass curves to a point, or bow, at one end to further enhance the nautical mystery.

Attesting to its age, the 7-foot spikes driven through its width – once presumably flush with the wooden surface – now protrude several inches from the rotted mass.

The problem now is disposing of it….you can’t sink it, it will just float back up. And you can’t cut it up with chain saws.

Whatever it is, now that it is out of the water, the Coast Guard has lifted restrictions on vessels in the area where it was found, a few miles north of the Pungo Ferry Bridge.

Sad end for the once famous SS Norway

Found this article in Malayasian “The Star”
“ON A stretch of beach in the state of Gujarat, western India, impoverished Bhojpuri- and Oriya-speaking workers are salvaging whatever valuables they can find from an 11-deck cruise ship.

Anchored in Alang waters since June 2006, the 46,000-tonne Blue Lady (formerly the luxurious trans-Atlantic liner SS Norway) has been embroiled in a protracted legal battle in the Indian Supreme Court. A breakthrough for the ship-breaking industry came on Sept 11 when the apex court gave the green light for it to be dismantled.

The Supreme Court has ruled on grounds of fait accompli: the situation has become “irreversible” since the vessel has beached but it has asked that precautionary measures be taken in dismantling the ship.

The 44-year-old Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) vessel is at the centre of an international outcry against the dumping of toxic wastes on the shores of South Asian sub-standard yards that have no decontamination facilities.

The 315m-long ship was retired from the fleet of NCL in May 2003 after an engine room fire and explosion in Miami. It was later towed to Bremerhaven, Germany, for repairs but was relocated to Port Klang in August 2005. NCL was acquired by Malaysian Genting Group’s Star Cruise Ltd, the world’s third largest cruise company, in 2000.

Highly controversial: The Blue Lady at the Alang shipyard in India.

Bangladesh, the original destination, rejected the ship in February 2006 as its contents are harmful to the environment and human health. The ship was eventually towed out of Port Klang in May 2006 for repairs in Dubai. However, the vessel instead entered the Gujarat port a month later, triggering a series of court actions.

The Indian Supreme Court allowed the vessel to enter Indian waters on humanitarian grounds when the purchaser Haryana Ship Demolition cited “difficulties due to monsoon storm”. But campaigners claimed the owner and purchaser had timed the ship’s departure to coincide with monsoons after an eight-month wait in Malaysia. (The ship has since been sold to Priya Blue Shipping Ltd.)

NGOs Platform on Ship-breaking, a grouping of Greenpeace International, Basel Action Network, Ban Asbestos Network of India and nine other groups, has since appealed the decision which it claimed has violated the same court’s ruling five days earlier. On Sept 6, the court had banned the entry of contaminated vessels and asked the government to produce a comprehensive ship-breaking policy.

Gopal Krishna of Ban Asbestos Network India alleged that the about-turn was due to collusion between government officials and the steel lobby that is desperate to keep the business alive at the notorious beach.

The ship is believed to contain 1,200 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated materials, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), radioactive materials and other hazardous substances that could endanger the lives of nearly 700 workers and some 30,000 villagers.

The dismantling is expected to take one year and will be done by uneducated migrant workers with little safety training and equipment.

Permission to beach the vessel was granted on Aug 1, 2006, by the court following inspection by the Technical Committee. NGOs Platform said the inspection did not comply with international and national laws.

It said the inspection team failed to quantify and identify the location of asbestos and PCBs on the ship, and failed to address the absence of technical capacity of the Alang shipyard to manage the dangerous materials and protect the workers. It pointed out that the government ignored an offer from a salvage company to refloat the vessel.

Workers dismantling a decommissioned ship at the Alang shipyard.

Under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, ships that have outlived their service are considered hazardous waste and unless decontaminated, are forbidden from being exported. The convention was designed to curb the dumping of toxic wastes from developed countries to developing nations, which often have less stringent environmental laws.

The Blue Lady saga mirrors the case of the Danish ship Riky in 2005, which was dismantled amid accusations of violations of both the convention and a court order that demanded decontamination and an inventory of hazardous materials onboard. In early 2006, French aircraft carrier Le Clemenceau was allowed to enter Indian waters laden with toxic substances until the French government, under intense public pressure and legal actions, recalled the ship.

Appeals by NGOs Platform urging the ship owner, Norwegian Cruise Line and its parent company Star Cruises Ltd (SCL) to assume responsibilities for Blue Lady went unanswered.

NGOs Platform also claimed that SCL withheld vital information from the German authorities when it sought permission to leave Bremerhaven. It said as early as December 2004, NCL had devalued SS Norway to a scrap value of US$12mil and was aware of the hefty cost to remove the wastes, rendering the sale for reuse unlikely. Hence, the intent to dispose was formed but not disclosed to the German and Malaysian authorities.

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities appear unconcerned over the matter since the vessel had departed in May 2006. Department of Environment and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment have not responded to calls from campaigners who urged Malaysia to exercise its rights to compel Germany to recall the ship and to abide by its obligation to prevent the illicit trade.

It is learnt that the authorities are seeking legal advice. A spokesman from SCL said “the company is unable to comment at this point in time”.

MSC to target the UK

Private Italian line MSC Cruises is to expand its ex-UK presence over the next three years.

The line’s CEO Pierfancesco Vago revaled that 2,000-passenger MSC Lirica would be deployed in Dover in 2009 after the company makes its ex-UK debut next year with MSC Armonia.

This will be followed in 2010 with a “larger new ship”, according to Vago, who declined to give further details.

The focus comes as MSC aims for 150% growth from the UK in 2008 when it will be operating a fleet of nine ships.

MSC is adding four vessels over the next 24 months, with MSC Poesia being christened in Dover on April 5, 2008, followed by the delivery of MSC Fantasia in December 2008. MSC Splendida will then be added and MSC Magnifica in 2010.

MSC expects to carry a total of 800,000 passengers next year and has targeted 50% growth in 2009.

Fantastia and Splendida are claimed to be the largest ships ever bult by a European ship builder and will feature the new MSC Yacht Club, a range of luxury suites, leisure facilities and lounge areas with 24-our butler service.

Vago said research had told the company that there was no sign of a slowing in demand for cruising.

“We still have big growth plans. Whatever tonnage we have put into the market, the market has responded,” he said at World Travel Market.

The company is also emphasising the family-friendly elements on its exsting and future vessels by maintaining a children go free policy for under 18s.

Grand Cayman tourism woes?

A recent letter to the Cayman Island News by a concerned local

“Dear Sir,

Constructing a massive, imposing Ritz monstrosity right in the middle of once-tranquil Seven Mile Beach was the straw that broke the back of Cayman’s dwindling visitor market. Not only do all of the decades of loyal visitors loath the imposing structure but more so what it symbolises.

The Ritz denotes the end of an era of innocence, culture and tranquility; the end of the days where no building was higher than a palm tree.

The island that “time forgot” has become the island that reminds us of any other big city with a beach. Miami Beach is no less congested than Seven Mile Beach. The 800+ employees of the Ritz, along with their hundreds of guests, have created a traffic atrocity well beyond the capacity of the small bypass road.

The only traffic decline they have caused is the death of the Links golf course and all their loyal customers. But of course, the Ritz cannot have their precious guests mingling with common locals or other visitors. They need to own the island’s only championship course and keep everyone else away.

Hundreds of cruise ship passengers being bused back and forth in droves exasperate an already loathsome Seven Mile Beach experience. Visitors are not going to pay the highest prices in the Caribbean to experience the same traffic and culture they have to live with every day. They used to be able to at least escape to East End or Rum Point but now the cruise ship passengers are being bused there too.

A visitor paying the highest prices in the Caribbean should not have to play a game of cat and mouse to calculate when and where the most cruise passengers are on any given day and plan their itinerary around them. Cayman now receives up to ten ships a day with a landing rate exceeding the total population of the island. And someone actually thought that would be a good idea?

As demonstrated by declining Cayman air arrival statistics for the past several years since the birth of Ritz, visitors are going elsewhere. Many would have chosen Little Cayman, had Cayman Airways not put Island Air out of business without first considering their ability to absorb their customer load.

As a result, day trips to the sister islands are all but extinct and weekly visitors are asked to endure a full day or overnight layover on both legs, effectively costing them two full days of their vacation. Few visitors will pay exorbitant prices to spend 20-30% of their vacation wasting away in crowded airports.
Grand Cayman’s reefs are dying of suffocation from the excessive anchorage and transport conducted by the hordes of cruise vessels and their tenders. What remains is being destroyed by irresponsible stewardship on the behalf of the large dive and snorkel companies, taking ridiculous numbers of people to a tiny dive site or sandbar.

With so many people to watch, the operators have a full time job just keeping their guests alive; let alone monitoring their behaviour to ensure protection of the undersea environment.

Hasn’t anyone there wondered why so few visitors are coming?

Maybe a visitor’s perspective will help those caught up in the middle to see what is obvious to everyone else.

Potter Family”