Cayman Islands: Cruising for bruising


In the caption to this photo, Flickr user George Chang touches upon one of the dilemmas facing small tourist economies:

There are 6 cruise ships that you can see in this picture. They are anchored off of George Town in Grand Cayman, BWI [196 km²]. These ships actually do a lot of damage to the reefs with their anchors and chains. However, they are also a large revenue generator for the island.


  • Rollo

    Incredible. It looks like an invasion flotilla.

  • […] Another reason not to support the cruise industry. […]

  • helene

    This is a very diffucult dilemma. What would I have decided if I was a politician there? I have to think about it…

  • Irish Mike

    am just back from a working trip to the islands where i must say i enjoyed my time. to see six cruise ships in one day is a common accurance, sometimes there are as many as 9-12 ships docked, the town gets over-run with tourists, which is brillant for the local economy, but takes away from the luster of the wonder full island and its fabulous beaches/reefs. it is a conundrum….the islands is the most expensive place to live in all the caribbean. but the way of life is far superior to any other islands including cuba and jamaica.

  • passlake

    Alas, my only experience with your lovely islands came as a result of being a cruise tourist. As a resident of a resort town north of Chicago, I can certainly empathize with the sense that tourists “invade” your home (as, indeed is the case, in one sense). On the other hand, I’ve been unable to lose the sense of being a sort of unwitting expat from an island I’ve visited for a few precious hours.

    This said, I visited on a day when only two ships arrived, mine included. I spoke at length with my children about the destructiveness wrought by these massive ships’ anchors, and would encourage the Editors to consider publishing underwater photos to call attention to this damaging practice. As our cruise ship did, it’s entirely feasible for ships to minimize reef impact through use of dynamic positioning, in which no anchor is dropped. GPS positioning and the ship’s existing thrusters manage the job quite ably with far less ecological impact.

    Thank you, Grand Cayman, for a lovely holiday!

  • Cathy

    There have NEVER been 9-12 cruise ships at one time in the Cayman Islands, therefore, IrishMike must be referring to other ships in the harbour. Eight Cruisers is the maximum and that is uncommon. We have also have cargo ships. I’ve lived in Grand Cayman all my life. Yes, George Town gets overcrowded and that’s a shame, but after 4:00 p.m., it returns to normal. Several years ago, the Government installed an anchoring system so that the ships do not have to drop their anchors onto the coral. Additionally, most ships engage a GPS position which, when on autopilot, use thrusters in the bow and stern to maintain the proper position. We’re still trying to figure out a better way to safe the environment from further damage.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.