Cruise ship agent Henry Hayward. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Cruise ship agent Henry Hayward. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

FRIDAY, NOV. 25: Allowing passengers to gamble in onboard casinos while in port would stop the exodus of cruise lines from Bermuda.

And it would not have a detrimental effect on the island’s economy, according to former St George’s Mayor Henry Hayward.

The Chairman of the Meyer group of companies, which acts as agents for the majority of cruise ships that visit the island each year, told the Bermuda Sun that the industry had been “mishandled” and needed to be treated as a priority.

He said: ‘Passengers should be allowed to gamble once they get back to the ship in the evening from 10pm. The majority of the passengers that come here at the moment go back to the ship well before 10pm. It would not hurt the local economy.

“If we don’t allow gambling in port then eventually more lines will leave.

“The cruise industry is huge in Bermuda and probably only behind international business at the moment in terms of the revenue it is turning over.

“We can not afford to lose it and it is important government gives it priority.”

The cruise industry is expected to rake in more than $80m for Bermuda in 2011 alone.

But so far this month Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland-America and Princess Cruises have all announced major reductions in their service to the island.

Mr Hayward, who is opposed to opening casinos on the island, said cruise lines are revenue-driven and were pulling out of Bermuda because they were losing money.

He said: “Financial income from bars, restaurants and casinos are all compacted and sent back to headquarters. It even comes down to if some bars only fill 80 per cent of their planned income, they will start to ask questions.

“They are that conscientious about their revenue. A lot of the cruise lines will be looking to see what happens in Bermuda next year. They will be looking to see if we get a handle on the transportation problems and do something about allowing gambling while in port.

“These two factors are very important for the future of cruise ships in Bermuda.”

Mr Hayward has already proposed constructing a cruise ship berth off St George’s to accommodate bigger ships and revitalize the Old Town’s economy.

He added: “I see no point in widening Town Cut and losing three islands when we can built a berth attached to the coast near Murray’s Anchorage.

“It would reduce congestion at Dockyard and could be erected within 18 months for $53m. It seems a far more suitable option.”