Cruise Critic learned of the port of call cancellations from John Heald's Facebook page. Heald is the line's senior cruise director and a popular cruise blogger. On the nine affected sailings, all on either Carnival Glory or Carnival Legend, the port of Belize will be replaced with calls in Costa Maya.
Though Heald said the changes were "purely for operational reasons," Cruise Critic has learned from Carnival the changes are in fact due to port and tender congestion.
"Although we have a confirmed berth in Belize, local officials accepted calls for additional ships," Carnival said in a letter. "Consequently, their tender capacity is not able to effectively handle the increased volume of guests without creating long delays and limiting your time ashore. Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to come to an acceptable agreement with Belize Port Authority regarding this situation."
Carnival canceled a handful of Belize calls two years ago around this time, also because of problems with tenders. At the time Carnival said the available tenders did not meet its standards for safe, comfortable and efficient transport.
Carnival also might cancel port calls in Grand Cayman because of tender problems. According to local news source cayCompass.com, Carnival is threatening to pull out of the Cayman Islands altogether if a proposed price increase for passenger tendering is approved.
Cayman Marine, which operates the 16 tenders that take passengers to and from ships in George Town harbor, has proposed a 75 cent price increase per passenger, levied in three phases throughout 2013. The first 25 cent raise already went into effect January 1. The next 25 cent increase is set for June. The company asserts the increase, its first in five years, will address rising labor, fuel, maintenance and material costs.
Carnival Cruise Line would not comment on the report it is threatening to pull out of Cayman Islands, instead referring to comments from Michele Paige, president of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, of which Carnival is a member.
"The increase in tendering fees is going to severely affect the amount of tonnage coming into Cayman," Paige is quoted as saying in cayCompass.com. "I'm not in a position to speak on behalf of individuals and members, only for the industry, but the industry is troubled.
Paige also intimated the increases could "drastically affect" the number of ships arriving in Grand Cayman. Carnival has 227 arrivals scheduled for Grand Cayman in 2013.
A spokesman for Cayman Marine said it is still in negotiations with cruise operators.
--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor