On the day that a group of Belize media personnel was invited by Norwegian Cruise Line to a special tour of their ship Norwegian Jewel there were three other ships that made calls to Belize; two of them were Norwegian ships while the others were for Carnival and Princess. Needless to say the Tourism Village in Belize City was teeming with activity from busy cruise passengers shopping at the village and others heading for tours around the country.
The Norwegian Jewel is a 965-foot ship with the guest capacity of 2,376 guests. It is fully air-conditioned, has staterooms, villas and suites, 11 dining areas, seven bars & lounges, several pools, clubs, theaters, arcades, fitness center, spa, medical center and even a casino. That and much more is compacted into 15 decks or levels that encompass the state-of-the-art vessel. Amongst all the four vessels on call that Wednesday, April 9, 2014, between 8,000 to 10,000 cruise ship passengers were in Belize.
This year it is projected that one million cruise ship passengers will pass through Belize.
The purpose of the tour that was organized by the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), with assistance from the Belize Tourism Board, was to provide an opportunity for Belizeans to understand the quality of service offered by the cruise operator to its customers, what jobs it creates for Belizeans and what standards it follows concerning the environmental impacts the industry has on each port destination.
The tour included viewing of some of the luxuries and services provided by the cruise ship but also a behind the scenes look in various areas as to how the ship functions. One particular area visited was the environmental room where it was explained to the group how the ship manages waste management, recycling, waste disposal and keeping up with both international standards and local standards of the countries they visit.
On the main control deck with Captain Kenneth Harstrom of the Norwegian Jewel
Theater of performing arts inside the Norwegian Jewel
Some of the luxuries on board the Norwegian Jewel Cruise Ship
NCL prides itself in exceeding all local and international standards of environmental regulations and assures residents of Belize that the protection and causing minimal impact on the environment is of their utmost concern.
One project in particular that has received loud objection from various private tourism stakeholders in southern Belize is that of Norwegian Cruise Ship project on Harvest Caye which NCL has purchased. These various sectors believe that the project is not environmentally sound, but the new southern port that will be located on the island off the coast of the Placencia Peninsula has submitted an environmental impact assessment to the Government of Belize and has been given the approval by the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC). The cruise line is pressing forward quickly with the development of Harvest Caye having already spend over $10Mil.
Vice President of Destination Development of NCL, Colin Murphy, assures Belizeans that the company is taking all proper procedures to develop an environmentally sound port. In easing the minds of all Belizeans who have concerns that the company might not follow all laws required by them, Mr. Murphy had this to say:
“Not only will we respect the laws, but in the same way that this ship operates under international regulations, we will of course respect the laws of Belize…We have an international reputation to keep up and respect as we consider ourselves to be stewards of the ocean. We take this very seriously and it would be very foolish of us to ignore that. Our passengers are very conscious; they come to Belize and understand that the environment is very fragile. So of course we are going to respect the laws of Belize and exceed their expectations in protecting the environment no matter where we are, as we operate in some of the most sensitive areas in the world.”
Harves Caye off the Placencia Peninsula in southern Belize
Mr. Murphy concluded by stressing the company’s commitment to Belize by providing a positive economic impact on the country. He stated the NCL has already invested heavily in Belize because they believe in the country, believe in the experience and what they are really doing is locking themselves in the country and create a fantastic destination that will showcase Belize beautifully.
Valdemar Andrade, Cruise Destination Director for the Belize Tourism Board, reiterated the tourism projections expected for this year. About one million cruise passengers will pass through Belize City and 300,000 overnight visitors will travel to the country. The average cruise passenger spends about $75US and each crew spends about $103US a day. This amounted to BZE$120MIL in revenue for 2013 and this year it is expected to reach up to BZE$150MIL. From this total $88MIL will come from cruise ship visitors and the remaining coming from the cruise port charges and fees.