Carnival CEO blasts Port of Miami as "Third World' facility
By Charlotte Libov
Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Bob Dickinson blasted Port of Miami facilities as "Third World" and said the port will lose important business if significant improvements aren't made.
He said the construction of two new $40 million terminals for Carnival must be completed promptly.
"We have second-rate terminals," he said. "The terminals being built are three years overdue. And even when they are up and running, we will not have parking spaces for the guests, and they will have to use shuttle buses. It's Third World."
Mr. Dickinson made the comments a few days after giving an address at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon at which he sharply criticized the port accommodations.
Port Director William Johnson was not at the luncheon but took issue with Mr. Dickinson's complaints. "The terminals are about 99% complete and are scheduled to receive a temporary occupancy permit sometime in May, so Carnival should be operating there in June," Mr. Johnson said.
"I'm the first to acknowledge that (the terminals) have taken longer than they should have," Mr. Johnson said. "I'm not one to point fingers. I'm changing things so that we don't have these sorts of problems."
Mr. Johnson took over as port director when Charles Towsley stepped down in May. He has tried to woo Norwegian Cruise Line into making Miami a weekly port of call instead of a departure point only. He has said he is pitching port-of-call proposals to Carnival and Royal Caribbean as well.
But according to Mr. Dickinson, the facility needs serious upgrading to be considered a first-class port that can attract that type of business.
"Miami should be the cruise capital of the world, but it's not competitive. It's not state-of-the-art," he said. He said the facility cannot compete with those in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville and Tampa.
"This port offers inferior service for our guests. When a customer comes to the port, he's paid good money for a cruise, so he expects to go to a covered parking garage, drop off his luggage and proceed. He doesn't want to have to be shuttled a half-mile," he said.
"In addition, our new terminals are three years late. In Mobile (AL), they built a terminal, from start-to-finish, in one year. Other ports build them in 18-20 months. All of the delays in getting started and all the nonsense that's followed is the fault of the port," he said.
Although he said he doesn't blame the current administration because many of the delays in the project were inherited, he indicated that he has run out of patience.
He said Miami-Dade County officials had agreed to pay the cost of the shuttle service at the port but the county's lawyers blocked the move.
"I'm exasperated. It is frustrating, especially since I had every promise in the world this would be taken care of. I'm not blaming the current management for the existing problems, but I will feel better when the current management produces results," he said.
Mr. Johnson said progress is being made and took issue with Mr. Dickinson's characterization of the parking situation, saying shuttle buses are operating and have been paid for by the county since August.
In addition, he said the county and the port spent more than $13 million on a new parking garage for Carnival's Terminals B and C. He acknowledged the garage is not close to the two new terminals, D and E, but said an additional 750-space parking garage is "in design and permitting even as we speak" and should open in fall 2008.
"We have parking. We're providing shuttle service to make sure it's convenient for the passengers, and that's the end of the story," he said. Asked if he knew why Mr. Dickinson is unhappy with the progress, he said, "My responsibility is to make sure that all of the concerns and issues of my cruise partners are addressed. … I don't know how they can be unhappy when they are moving into $80 million worth of new terminals and a new garage."