BMPs have been attacked for "playing politics" with cruise ship gaming legislation by the tourist trade.

The Bermuda Hotel ­Association claims ­allowing liners to open their casinos while docked in Bermuda is vital to the future of the industry.

John Harvey, CEO of the association, says the island is marooning itself in the past by refusing to give ­customers what they want.

Their concerns come amid yesterday's revelation that Holland America - the last remaining cruise line company to service St. George's and Hamilton - may stop visiting Bermuda.

The firm says it will let guests decide if they should keep coming back.

Disappointed

Their decision follows the defeat of Premier Brown's cruise ship gaming bill two weeks ago.

Dr. Brown tried to force through legislation calling a vote when only his core supporters were in the House of Assembly. But UBP MPs and rebel PLP MPs returned in time to ­defeat the bill 18 votes to 11.

The Premier previously cancelled a vote after it became clear it would fail.

Mr. Harvey said: "I was very disappointed it failed.

"We have to give our ­visitors - be it on land or on board - the best ­possible environment to ­enjoy themselves.

"These are tourists who help us enjoy a standard of living. We have got to be working for the good of the country. I suspect they [MPs] didn't do that.

"I suspect they voted to send a message to the ­Premier. We have got to put those things behind us for the greater good."

The cruise line gaming bill would allow ship ­casinos to open while in port between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

Opponents say it will cut the hours and dollars spent by tourists on shore.

Others object to gambling in Bermuda in general and argue it is wrong that tourists should enjoy ­casinos while islanders are denied the opportunity. But Mr. Harvey insists the ­island risks being left ­behind if it doesn't move with the times.

He said: "I have been around long enough to see the patterns.

"Once visitors couldn't have televisions in their rooms, we didn't take credit cards and we didn't deal with wholesale booking agents.

"Times change. You have to provide what your ­customer wants.

"Not everyone drinks or can swim but we still ­provide a bar and a ­swimming pool.

"Providing what your customer wants is the ­difference between someone saying 'we had a ­wonderful time in Bermuda, we'll go back next year' and 'next time we'll go to the Mediterranean'."

Hoteliers gain little direct benefit from cruise ­passengers.

But Mr. Harvey claims that if the visitors enjoy themselves sufficiently, they might be tempted to return and stay in a hotel.

At the very least they will say good things about the island.

The Holland America cruise line is committed to visiting Bermuda ­until 2010. The firm has been ­vocal in its support of ­gaming legislation.

The firm says it hopes lawmakers will reconsider the bill and amend it to ­allow gambling in port at St. George's and Hamilton but not Dockyard.

A spokesperson told the Bermuda Sun the company is "very disappointed" at the failure of the bill.

They added: "We do still see an opportunity for Hamilton and St. George's to attract more ships if the bill were revised to be ­limited to ships in these two ports only.

"We believe the passage of this law would have had no impact on our guests' ­behaviour ashore but would help make Bermuda a more appealing cruise destination.

"These activities are an important element of the ambiance onboard our ships and are important for overall guest satisfaction."

Commitments

The firm revealed that if guests are not excited about cruises to Bermuda ­without gambling, it may relocate ships to a different destination.

The spokesman said: "Our future commitments in Bermuda will be ­determined by the demand for these itineraries and how satisfied our guests are with the experience."

Norwegian Cruise Lines declined to comment on the defeat of the bill, saying its position on the matter had not changed.

NCL has said previously it will have to consider ­cutting the number of nights per trip that its ships are docked on the island in order to have casinos and shops open.