The Norwegian Epic suffered a partial loss of power resulting in two stops in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. That's bad. Worse was the attempt to dock in San Jaun as the ship made its way back to Florida. The wind overcame two tugs and bow thrusters resulting in two mooring points being knocked over as their edges scrapped dents in the Epic's hull. As seen in a growing number of Youtube videos recorded by passengers onboard the Norwegian Epic, Celebrity Edge and pier side the incident surely will be the highlighted sea story passengers on both ships tell for a very long time! There were no injuries and the Epic completed the full seven day cruise save for the missed ports of call. Predictably passengers were posting on social media demanding full refunds for their "ruined" vacations. Norwegian offered 50% refunds for the trouble, which on any other such occasion would be generous at the least. One of the very first things any travel agent tells you or that the fine print of every cruise contract states, ports of call are NOT guaranteed. No ships services were compromised and the cruise was not cut short. I don't know of any examples of full refunds being made in an instance such as this.
Nobody was hurt. The ship didn't suffer more than cosmetic damage. Grand Bahama island did not sink. However a harbor pilot is going to have a really bad annual review and the Mickey Mouse forever hanging off the back of the Diseny Dream will have some serious work to do following the ship backing into the pier this week. There are limited pictures of the incident but the tireless staff at CruiseAficionados.com have given us this artists image based on first hand accounts.
It appears the ship was driven into the pier by a harbor pilot by the name of captain Kado Oquoné, seen here in this file photo.
The following YouTube video was posted online, however we have not been able to independantly confirm the authenticity. Are we the only ones getting sick of watching video recorded by people with phones who can't be bothered to turn the device sideways, seriously get a clue folks, it isn't cute anymore.
Falmouth is a newer port of call in the Caribbean. The cruise port at Falmouth was built as a partnership between the Port Authority of Jamaica and Royal Caribbean International and opened in 2011. It added to Jamaica a custom built port that mirrors the model being seen increasingly across the caribbean. The port includes purpose built piers able to accommodate even the largest cruise ships, with a large, modern, duty-free shopping mall through which all passengers filter. The stores in the mall are rented by many different types of business'. These range from the obligatory Diamonds International to small family owned shops. At the edge of the port is a purpose-built bus terminal used to board passengers onto bus' for their pre-planned excursions. The intent here as elsewhere, is to create a controlled, quality environment in which passengers can make smooth exits to their planned excursions or simply enjoy some hours shopping without chaotic taxi stands and vendors pursuing people.
Like most such newer port terminals, Falmouth features some space within the duty free mall for local merchants. These tend to be limited in space as compared to the larger company and privately owned stores in the ports buildings. These areas tend to be called "artisan villages" or shops and In some cases the merchants are indeed local and sometimes actually the artists who created what is being sold. They are selected merchants and not random to be sure. Since the establishment of the port local vendors from within the town of Falmouth have sought to setup stands just outside of the gates.
According to the local media in Falmouth and Jamaica, the local vendors are going to have access to a new space being built for opening in October 2017. The space is intended to reduce or eliminate the "tarpoline village" outside of the port. Local vendors have mixed feelings on the new stalls. They are happy to have them at all on the one hand but complain they are too small. Local officials have responded by saying the merchants should not expect or intend to stock everything they have but be more selective and focused in what they attempt to sell.
The new local vendor stalls come as Falmouth is reported to be under growing pressure by Royal Caribbean and Carnival to improve conditions across the board at Falmouth. Little specifically has been said, though some media reports have interpreted talk of reduced visitations as being the elimination of the port or to over state dissatisfaction with conditions at Falmouth. However passenger reviews and comments in the last couple of years have indicated the conditions at the excursion bus terminal, nearby road conditions and the quality of shops have faltered in recent years. Given the importance of the port to Jamaica's future and the amount invested into the project by the cruise industry, it is likely improvements will be quick in coming.
With the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico lagging badly behind that seen in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and after growing public calls for action, the U.S. finally waived the Jones Act for a time. This will allow a wider range of ships to transit directly between ports in the U.S. and the Caribbean island territory. The Jones Act is an example of "cabotage law," meaning regulation of trade between domestic ports. Laws like it exist in most countries and the intent originally was to protect fleets of merchant marine ships and personnel from competition from other countries. The fear was that if other countries could push domestic ship building out of business and reduce the number of native sailors. In the event of a war such a weakness could have been disastrous for most countries dependent on trade over water.
The law forces trade (passenger travel or goods and services) traveling from one U.S. port to another must be built in the U.S., crewed by Americans, and owned by Americans. The Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1920 is very similar and applies to passenger vessels specifically. The PVSA however states that no ship failing any of the three mandates in the Jones Act can pick passengers up in one U.S. port, then debark them at a different U.S. port without visiting a second country first. In this case the Jones Act prevents fleets of ships that fail any of the three mandates to travel directly from American ports to Puerto Rico. This had the effect of crippling shipments of needed supplies and materials needed to aid hurricane recover efforts. Within the cruise industry and beyond there is strong sentiment to update and change the Jones Act and the PVSA to reflect modern times. Such would allow for radical growth in cruises that travel entire itineraries of U.S. and Canadian ports, boost tourism in said ports and certainly create new jobs. However the Jones Act and PVSA have staggeringly well funded, determined and organized union and business interests who have successfully defended the laws for nearly a hundred years. Some think the hurricanes might finally lead to some changes but there seems little momentum given the current political climate in the U.S.
Hurricane Irma is picking up speed and power. Per our updated image here, thanks to the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center, Irma is expected to be near or ashore in the Florida Keys and possibly the greater Miami area. Major cruise lines are already canceling cruises ahead of time and sending ships to alternate ports ahead of time. If you are cruising within the next two weeks you should contact your travel agent or cruise line today.