Cayman Islands to prohibit Sunday port calls

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MIAMI -- The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism sent cruise lines a letter last week saying the lines may no longer make port calls on Sundays, Christmas or Good Friday.

There was no explanation given for the ban, but it is believed the move was made in response to complaints by island church leaders. The letter said the decision was made "with immediate effect," but Christmas and Sunday calls for the remainder of this year apparently will not be affected. "This decision may affect some aspect of your service planned into the port of George Town for 1999 and beyond, and for that, we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience," wrote L. Angela Martins, director of tourism.

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association immediately lodged a complaint and was assured of a reprieve "for the next few months to hopefully come to grips with it," according to Michele Paige, president of the association. Paige said further discussions with island officials were planned. "The problem is the itineraries [for 1999] are already printed. We asked [island officials] if an itinerary is published, would they grandfather it in," Paige said.

Most ships visit the island on weekdays as part of seven-day western Caribbean sailings and would be affected more by the holiday than by the Sunday ban.

Royal Caribbean, which does visit Grand Cayman Sundays as part of the 10- and 11-day Caribbean itineraries offered on the Splendour of the Seas, appeared to be the line most affected. A spokesman said Royal Caribbean representatives had had discussions with Cayman Islands officials and agreed to switch calls scheduled for Good Friday of next year by the Enchantment of the Seas and sister company Celebrity's Mercury. The ships will visit Jamaica that day instead. He said the line still was discussing with Cayman Islands officials six calls scheduled by the ship for Sundays in 1999. "It's not easy to change itineraries," the spokesman said.

Other lines affected by the ban include Costa, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess. A spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line said it has only one Sunday port call scheduled for Grand Cayman in 1999, in November, by the Norwegian Crown, and she said the line does not have a problem with the ban. "We feel it's their prerogative to do this," she said.

But on Grand Cayman, there were already signs of dissension, in the form of pressure being put on the government by shop owners and those in the tourism sector who don't want to lose the Sunday business. "If my livelihood were affected, I would be up in arms, too," the FCCA's Paige said.

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