Two cruise ships are coming again to a a lot totally different Key West on Saturday. A lot has modified since any of their ilk final visited in March 2020. A lot.
Most cruise ships are now not welcome, say greater than half of Key West’s voters, who, in November 2020, authorized native referendums to drastically scale back the variety of ships — and folks — that may dock in Key West. Six months later, a brand new state regulation particularly voided these and any voter initiatives that search to limit maritime commerce in Florida.
The Azamara Quest will dock at 7:30 a.m. Saturday on the city-owned Mallory Pier. With a 1,094-person capability (686 passengers, 408 crew), the ship meets the town’s new cruise ship dimension and capability limits. It’s one in every of solely 11 smaller ships that meet the brand new standards and are scheduled to go to Key West in 2022.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, the Crystal Serenity will dock on the privately owned Pier B. With a complete capability of 1,695 individuals (1,040 passengers, 655 crew), the ship, when full, would exceed the town’s new prohibition of ships that carry greater than 1,500 individuals. However the Crystal Serenity is arriving Saturday with solely 476 passengers, mentioned John Wells, founding father of Caribe Nautical ships’ agent, which schedules and providers cruise ships for the port of Key West. Wells has been a vocal opponent of the brand new limits that might prohibit 95% of the town’s prior port calls.
“The mixed passenger rely of each ships on Saturday is 911,” Wells informed the Keys Weekly on Wednesday.
However even when the Crystal Serenity was to reach at full capability, the brand new ship guidelines haven’t but been formalized for the privately owned Pier B.
When Key West’s voter initiative was voided by the brand new state regulation, cruise ship opponents, led by the Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships, urged metropolis officers to as a substitute flip these referendums into ordinances, which hadn’t been voided by the state regulation.
These ordinances should not but in place.
Metropolis Lawyer Shawn Smith has been working for months to rent exterior counsel to assist him draft these ordinances, after which, extra importantly, defend them in courtroom. Smith has repeatedly warned metropolis commissioners he anticipates pricey lawsuits from personal enterprise in response to the town authorities’s try to limit their operations and scale back their revenue, particularly at Pier B, which was constructed particularly for cruise ships. As well as, Smith has mentioned, the town has been gathering 25% of Pier B’s cruise ship revenues for almost 30 years and nonetheless has a contract in place with Pier B.
After months of false begins because of varied attorneys’ conflicts of curiosity, Smith obtained approval earlier this month to rent a beneficial regulation agency in Fort Lauderdale with no conflicts. Collectively, they’ll work to draft the brand new ordinances.
However these ordinances already are being focused by one other new state invoice, Senate Invoice 280, which, if handed, would make it way more tough for a metropolis or county to enact native ordinances that influence enterprise pursuits.
Whereas the attorneys work to show the voided referendums into ordinanes, metropolis commissioners have mentioned they’ll honor the desire of the voters, and are refusing to permit bigger ships on the two city-managed piers — Mallory Dock and the Outer Mole Pier, which the town leases from the navy.
Leaders of Safer Cleaner Ships have tweeted concerning the Azamara Quest’s pending arrival, first questioning its COVID security protocols, then later touting the ship’s smaller dimension and shallow draft.
The group tweeted on Nov. 23, “Will Azamara Quest be the primary cruise ship to flout the Conditional Sail Order and land on the ‘grey listing’? At the moment crusing from St. Thomas to Miami, she is outwardly working exterior CDC protocols designed to guard passengers & port communities from COVID-19.”
“Aboard each ships, all crew and passengers are totally vaccinated,” Wells mentioned. “Common COVID testing happens on each ships. These are totally screened individuals versus vacationers arriving by automobile or air. All CDC protocols for lowering the unfold of COVID are in place on each ships.”
However metropolis officers in Key West have refused to cooperate with the CDC by partaking in formal COVID agreements with any cruise ships, Wells mentioned.
“The Crystal Serenity has signed a proper Memorandum of Settlement with Pier B Company in full compliance with CDC directives,” Wells mentioned.
Afterward Nov. 23, SCS tweeted, “[Azamara] Quest is definitely a fantastic match for Key West. Smaller, safer, shallow-draft ships like this gained’t trigger extreme turbidity and threaten our reef & are precisely what Key West voters need. We’d like to see them right here, however strongly want they comply with CDC steerage.”
Wells informed the Keys Weekly, “The Azamara Quest has obtained a CDC-directed settlement with Port of Miami, so they’re totally authorized by the CDC to function within the U.S. Key West is the one port within the U.S. that doesn’t cooperate with the CDC,” Wells mentioned.
As for the bigger Crystal Serenity, SCS retweeted a Wednesday submit by a consumer referred to as Key West Channel Marker that mentioned, “Will Jack Anderson of Crystal Cruises point out the very fact he intends to disregard the desire of the individuals in ports they name on? Will they put earnings above the well being of Key West’s reefs? Let’s hope they rethink their cease right here Saturday. Locals are pissed.”
The anti-cruise ship sentiment was additionally evident on Fb, the place some are urging protests and picketing, and are telling the ship through social media it’s not welcome.
Key West Channel Marker wrote, “Azamara Quest meets the standards we voted on and needs to be welcomed. Crystal Serenity doesn’t, and won’t be welcomed. Crystal wants to tell their passengers they don’t care about this island or its waters, they solely care about earnings. We will probably be prepared.”
Person Michael Ritchie wrote to Crystal Cruises, “Are you going to inform your passengers on Crystal Serenity that their ship just isn’t actually welcome in Key West this weekend? They could wish to know. Higher in case you cancel the cease — our citizenry voted towards ships that dimension.”
Wells mentioned, “Each ships have formal approval from the U.S. Coast Guard to name on Key West.”
Some native enterprise house owners who would assist much less drastic reductions in cruise ship site visitors are involved by the potential influence of inhospitable locals on Key West’s welcoming popularity, One Human Household motto and total tourism financial system. Others fear that ship passengers will misread the protests as harassment based mostly on race, nationality or sexual id moderately than as a protest towards ship dimension.
Counter-protests have been mentioned to make sure that all passengers really feel welcome within the Southernmost Metropolis.