Cayman Islands Thinks About Cutting Cruise Tourism

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The Cayman Islands is thinking about cutting the amount of cruise tourism allowed to visit the popular cruise port at Grand Cayman. The island has already discussed the banning of cruise ships entirely from the islands for 2021.

The British overseas territory has also announced it will not be proceeding with building a cruise port in the island group’s capital Georgetown. The announcement will likely not be welcomed by the cruise lines. In 2019, four cruise lines, MSC, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Disney, all committed to financing a cruise dock in Georgetown.

Living Without Cruise Tourism

The building of a cruise dock had initially been met with enthusiasm by the local government. Premier Alden McLaughlin commented that the cruise lines’ money would be welcome as no public funding would be spent. A little under two years later, that sentiment has been changed entirely.

The cruise port plan has been petitioned by a group of locals, which has led to the need for a referendum; the government has taken measures in its own hands and canceled the cruise port from being built.

The current pandemic has shown the islands have managed to survive, thrive in some cases, without millions of cruise passengers passing through the islands each year. Instead, the island will be looking to put a cap on the number of visitors that can come to the islands by cruise ship. Cruise travel would not be entirely banned, according to Premier McLaughlin in the Cayman Compas:

“We cap the numbers so that our current system can accommodate them in a better way, and the experience for those who do visit can be better.”

Residents and business owners have expressed that they did not want “to go back to a large number of visitors” that Cayman had played host to in recent years. In 2019, more than 1.83 million cruise ship passengers visited Grand Cayman.

Things to Do in Grand Cayman During a Cruise
Photo By: Russell Otway

Diversifying Tourism

The Cayman Islands are a British overseas territory made up of three islands: Cayman Brac, Grand Cayman, and Little Cayman. The islands saw around 1.83 million cruise passengers in 2019, with January being the busiest month with 271.000 visitors. The Cayman Islands are one of the top earners in the Caribbean for cruise earnings.

For the 2017/2018 cruise season, the cruise line generated passenger spending in the islands amounted to $224.5 million. The cruise lines themselves spent $34.9 million in the Cayman Islands during the 2017/2018 cruise year for port fees, taxes, navigation, provisions, and supplies.

Although the islands want to cut down on cruise tourism, they will now focus on diversifying the tourism that visits the islands, focusing on medical tourism.

Also Read: Things to Do in Grand Cayman During a Cruise

Grand Cayman Cruise
Photo Credit: eric laudonien /

Cruise Tourism Not Likely In 2022

Despite the government’s plans, it seems unlikely that cruises will be returning to the Cayman Islands this year. The premier stated last year it would likely be banning cruise travel to its shores:

“Cruise is not on our radar at all at this stage. We would have to be satisfied that the world was in a very different place in terms of safety-related to COVID-19 before we would even consider having the cruise ships come here. Honestly, I don’t see cruise tourism resuming on any significant level before next year.”

It seems that the words of the premier have not reached the cruise lines just yet as cruises to the Cayman Islands are still available this year with Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Key West has already taken similar steps as the Cayman Islands is proposing. Although there is no denying the cruise lines perform a precious economic service to the Caribbean islands, this does come at a cost.

Worth Reading: 10 Reasons to Relax at Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

Small islands do sometimes struggle with the effects cruise tourism has on the islands themselves. If the Cayman Islands continue on this path, it will be interesting to see what other Caribbean destinations will be doing.

Main Photo Credit: Angela N Perryman /


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