FRIDAY, OCT. 26: The recent decline in cruise passenger numbers is not reflective of Bermuda as a destination, according to Government.

It insisted the recent decisions of Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America to slash their calls to the island were due to financial reasons.

The claim comes after the Bermuda Sun revealed this week that passenger numbers will fall by around 27,000 in 2013 from 357,000 in 2012.

The number of cruise calls will also drop from 162 this year, to 126 in 2013.

A statement released by Government yesterday detailed why the two major cruise lines had pulled back from Bermuda, and maintained that cruise arrivals on the island were still ‘high by historical standards’.

The statement added: “In 2011, Bermuda experienced the highest number of cruise visitors in history, with a total of 415,711 cruise arrivals.

“This included 15 Carnival Cruise Line visits.

“The peak times to be in Bermuda is Monday to Friday, from mid-May through the end of October.

“Currently Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line occupy the available berths on a weekly basis at Royal Naval Dockyard.

“In order to accommodate Carnival Cruise Line in 2011, the majority of their cruises to Bermuda were in late-April, early May and in October when the berths were available.

“The Carnival cruises to Bermuda lasted only one year, with Carnival indicating that the reason they would not return was that the shoulder months were not as profitable as cruises to other markets.

“This was not reflective of Bermuda as a destination, but the dates the Carnival ships were offered in order to include Bermuda in their itineraries.

“Without the Carnival Cruise Lines cruises, the projected number of cruise visitors is anticipated to drop to 360,000 in 2012, still high by historical standards.

“Earlier in 2012, Holland America Line announced that this would be the last year for the Veendam sailing from New York to Bermuda.

“Holland America Line found that the Veendam, at 16 years of age, was having difficulty competing with the newer and larger ships at Dockyard.

“Consequently, they were not getting the ticket prices that they had hoped for.

“According to Holland America, their decision was not reflective of the Bermuda product, but was due to their being able to gain more revenues by sailing to other destinations.

“As a result of not having the Veendam in 2013, the number of cruise visitors is projected to decrease to 336,000, still high by historical standards.

“By comparison, Bermuda had 318,528 cruise visitors in 2009 and 347,931 in 2010.”

In 2013 just three cruise ships are scheduled to visit St George’s, while there are expected to be 12 cruise calls in Hamilton.

Government yesterday pledged to continue to look for smaller ships that could come alongside in Hamilton and St George’s.

The statement said: “The issues of the availability of small cruises ships for Hamilton and St George’s has been addressed on a number of occasions.

“The Study of Bermuda’s Shipping Channels to Accommodate Larger Cruise Ships was concluded in August 2011.

Competitive service

“The study revealed that only 26 vessels were in competitive service (including the Veendam and her sister ships) that could navigate Two Rock Passage and dock in Hamilton, and even fewer capable of transiting Town Cut in St George’s.

“Bermuda receives many of these ships now, with many of them being luxury brands stopping here on a few occasions each year.

“Most are on trans-Atlantic or world-wide itineraries.

“Unless another cruise pier is constructed to handle the larger ships, or a small ship is found that can dock in St George’s and Hamilton, the number of cruise visitors moving forward will be in the range of that projected for 2013, still high by historical standards.”