The largest cruise ships plying the seas, the Oasis class that can carry up to 8,400 passengers and crew and is run by Royal Caribbean Lines, will never call on Charleston.
That was the guarantee offered by a keynote speaker in a three-day symposium that began Wednesday night in Charleston. The approximately 150 attendees offered up some soft applause at the news.
The conference was organized by local preservationists, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Fund to try to help Charleston and other historic port cities balance cruise ship tourism with the cities’ quality of life.
Craig Milan, a former Royal Caribbean executive who has spent 12 years in the cruise industry, offered some consolation to those concerned about cruise ships’ growing presence here. “I can assure you the Oasis of the Sea will never be in Charleston,” he said. “There’s just not the market for that ship. ... You’ll always be a niche port.”
Still, Milan said Charleston should decide if it wants cruise tourism, how much of it and what type.
“I think that has to be done with a process with all the players involved,” he said. “There are ways everybody’s needs can be met. I think everybody is reasonable at the end of the day as far as how you balance cruise tourism with quality of life.”
“I don’t think anybody in this industry wants to shove anything down anybody’s throat,” he added.
Milan presented facts about the growing industry, including its growth in Venice, expected to be a hot topic as the conference resumes today. Venice saw about 400,000 cruise passengers in 1990, but saw almost 2 million in 2011.
The industry, which does about half its business in the United States and half elsewhere around the globe, is growing. Milan cited the example of a new 6,000-passenger ship delivered to south Florida that set off a domino-like progression that sent four existing ships to new port cities, each ship slightly larger than the one that was there.
The conference will wrap up by 12:30 p.m. Friday.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.