Cruise industry complains about Turtle Farm

| 21/06/2009

(CNS): On his recent visit to the United States, the new Leader of Government Business and Minister for Tourism, McKeeva Bush, was told by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association that cruise passengers are confused by the re-naming of Boatswain Beach. The cruise organisation said consumers think that they are paying to go to a beach when they book tours there and that the cost of the tour is too expensive to be able to significantly increase volumes of visitors to the attraction, which is currently receiving millions of dollars from government revenue to keep it afloat.

During his recent visit to Miami Bush and the CI delegation also heard that the FCCA was concerned about the dust, poor staging, lack of restroom facilities and lines at Spotts when cruise ships are forced to dock their during inclement weather and the cruise lines were considering bypassing Cayman on days when the George Town port was inoperable.

Bush told the FCCA however, that his government would enhance the destination and guest experience, which includes some much-needed improvements to the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal as well as Spotts facility.  Despite the mixed feelings about the need to develop cruise berthing facilities in the community, he told the cruise industry body that he is committed to developing the facilities. Bush has not yet said where the facilities will be developed or whether he will pick up the plans started by the previous administration with Atlantic Star.

Bush said he plans to dedicate resources to cruise tourism development, starting with a full time person dedicated to the industry. In addition to developing the product and facilities in Cayman his team were conscious to work on the business relationship with FCCA, which had reportedly been neglected in recent years.

During his time in Washington at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Annual Tourism Summit, Bush also met with US Congressman William Delahunt, who serves a House sub-committee responsible for Immigration matters, to discuss the establishment of US Immigration & Customs pre-clearance in Cayman. The men talked about having the US Immigration come to Cayman to conduct VISA interviews or perhaps even the use of videoconferencing technologies for the purposes of the interviews. The group also received a briefing on the US-UK Open Skies, the new aviation agreement between the US and EU, and how the Overseas Territories might consider approaching the UK to negotiate with the US on behalf of the OTs.

"Over the last two weeks we have been busy meeting with industry groups to determine what the Cayman Islands Government needs to do to move the needle on visitor arrivals,” Bush said. “I am confident that with some courage to tackle the real problems and a commitment to focus our efforts on developing the business of tourism, both inside and outside the Cayman Islands, we will reverse the trend of declining visitor arrivals within the next year and increase guest satisfaction levels.”

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  1. waiting says:

    Joey must be boiling.


    I cannot believe all the things I see posted here about how bad the Turtle Farm is. I thought Joey Ebanks had sorted out all the problems up there.

    He got Caymanian of the year from one of our local news papers for the excellent job he did in straightening out the Turtle Farm.

    In my honest opinion the place needs to revert to what it was when it was financially viable. A turtle farm that raised turtles forlocal consumption and a research center for the turtles……… I knon, I know……….. the turtles are treated inhumanely etc, but what about the pther food sources that we enjoy each day such as chickens.

    As a research and breeding facility I would venture to say that they will attract just as many tourists as they do now, and at least the tourist would know exactly what they were paying for and not be disappointed when there is no beach.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The turtle farm is a disaster. Dirty, filthy, the landscaping is crap. The shark tank is overgrown with algae and so is the snorkeling lagoon. The edges of the turtle tanks are covered in bird feces so that when children lean over to pick up turtles, their clothes get all messed up. I recently took some visiting friends there and I was morified! Matter of fact, every single person we encountered that day at Boatswains beach was complaining over how bad it was. If government can’t handle it, get a private partner or sell it alltogether rather than carrying this huge million debt every year.

  3. Master Splinter says:

    Too expensivel, badly run, not as good as it thinks it is, over-Americanized and the subject of petty political squabbles – Boatswain’s Beach is the perfect flagship of Cayman culture in 2009.

  4. Frequent Flyer says:

    Just F.Y.I. Those cruiseshippers are given a description of each tour. If the description is misleading….. Then again, they think Stingray City is an actual town….

    Stupid is as Stupid does.

  5. Terry Wilton says:

    To Anonymous 6/22/09 11:44

    I do all the things you mention in your first paragraph. I won’t eat turtle meat though because I think the hypocrites are those who say they are engaged in conservation and regeneration but then sell the turtles as food. I don’t eat conch either because, to me, they are just overgrown slugs but that is a different issue.

    Captive dolphins lead a life nothing at all like the life they have evolved for. They are top predators with the entire ocean to hunt in and recent research has shown that some do just that.

    Domesticated cattle and sheep on the other hand, live almost exactly as they would in the wild. They don’t move much. They just stand and eat which is what they did before selective breeding turned them into the animals they are today. Their life expectancy is longer too. They have no predators and vets treat them if they become ill. Without domestication I am pretty sure that cattle, sheep, pigs and even horses would be extinct. Look what the Americans did to buffalos.


    Dolphins are a different matter altogether. Have you ever swum with them? Not in a concrete pool but in the sea, in their environment. The wife of  a relative of mine was told to take her husband swimming with dolphins in an attempt to lift him out of a deep depression. The outcome was instant and amazing. Now, 13 years later, whenever he begins to feel bad, he replays the video of that experience and within a minute he’s smiling all over his face.


    Some might say that you get the same effect swimming with captive dolphins. I know that disadvantaged children are taken to swim with them but how can it be the same? Captive dolphins have no alternative but to cooperate. They are even trained to do just that.

    I am certainly not saying that we’ve never abused members of the animal kingdom. Of course we have but it is not as prevalent now. I hate to see a lion in a cage but seeing them running around in a Safari Park is a different matter. It’s the same with dolphins. They have not evolved for our benefit and amusement so please don’t cage them.

  6. Shocked observer says:

    I can not fathom how anyone could recommend the Pirates Cave in BT, especially for the children under 8 years old.  Anyone who has been there is surely horrified by the ill treatment of animals here (a common sight in Cayman unfortunately, obviously God must not of cared for there beautiful creatures, or do you only listen to the Bible when it suits?). 

    When I last went a rabbit had just give birth, and all around the cage were dead bunny’s, not even given the dignity of been taken away and buried.  The other animals faired no better and it is a disgrace that it can be called a zoo! 

    As for the cave?? I wouldn’t pay a cent to see them again, pathetic. 

    At least the Turtle farm tried, at $10 for a local it is a bargain and if the upkeep was up to scratch and the prices for tourists dropped we would have a real winner on our hands!

    • Anon says:

      But wasn’t Boatswain’s beach the crowning glory of our esteemed LOGB the last time he was in power? Clearly the whole idea was misconceived far too much was spent so that we can never make it back. Well that would be bad enough but the tourists also find it unappealing, too expensive and misleading!  Perhaps with his new-found appetite for fiscal prudence things will improve.

  7. Uniquely Cayman? says:

    Above the waterline, there is not much here apart from the world’s second rarest iguana.

  8. Sad Young Caymanian says:

    My name says it all….I once bragged about the beauty of my island, the friendly families, the old time traditions shared amongst generations…now, as I watch yet another portion of beach disappear to condos (next to Geckos beach bar or whatever that will become) I realise that there is nothing of Cayman left for me to brag about.

    How sad is it that I once longed to return here after many years in the US, would tell all the people I met about the glorious beaches, the diving, the food…only to return and within 5 years be so turned off I look forward to cruises to OTHER islands just to feel at home again!

    Every day it depresses me more to see that Caymanians do not get to enjoy our own island because the hotels & condos won’t allow us to relax on ‘their’ beach.  Yet how many times do those condo owners even step out of their homes? 

    I used to romp around the beach, run up and down for what seemed like miles and miles, and see families cooking out, enjoying a game of dominos, letting the kids explore the sea at their feet….now, I ahve to pay top dollar to take my kids to Boatswains Beach and for what?  I went 2 weekends ago with a friend from the US and she was flabbergasted!!  We walked by the snorkeling lagoon and there were 3 people getting out and they said, "Oh my goodness! that was the most digusting thing I have done!"

    Its sad that in the 5 years I been home, I can honestly say that I havent done ANYTHING Caymanian except EAT!  And that is only at family’s house so…

    I’m glad the Muesum is opening back up but how depressign is that?  Here we are with many of the families displayed prominently throughout the museum still alive today and what do have to show for it?  Nothing…our past came and went…and we have nothign to show for it except No Trespassing signs on OUR beaches….cha…



  9. Anonymous says:

    Our Tourism product needs serious revamping there is not much unique Cayman things here and the ones that are here are in need of seroius upkeep.I think most tourist go to other destinations that have more Island flavour and there stay can be extended,the way I look at it Cayman has enough to offer you for about one Day that’s it, after a few days it gets stall and boring!

  10. Anonymous says:

    "… And if any of my guests visited the dolphin abuse centres I would kick them out of my home."

    Are you a vegan?  Or do you wear leather shoes, BBQ flesh, fry fowl, saute shrimp, and grill gilled critters?  Do you eat that dolphin-killing produce of the tuna industry?  Do you take advantage of a medical science that relied on experimenting on monkeys and other creatures genetically similar to humans?  Does it bug you that people genetically modify rats to give them cancer, so that medicines for us can be created and tested?  Would you refuse a resulting treatment?  Thought so, hypocrite.

    Come on – as visitors we’re petting them, feeding them and letting them push us around.  We’re not eating them, dissecting them, conducting genetic experiments on them or electrocuting them (like students do to frogs before dissecting the alive).  We don’t beat them, starve them or otherwise abuse them.  I don’t see why you complain – they are treated better than most people in Cayman seem to treat their dogs. 

    Besides, free admission to the Turtle Farm that comes with a dolphin pass is the only reason anyone should ever bother going to see the Turtle Farm at all (other than those with a fascination for watching your tax dollars vaporize), so it is progress.  On the other hand, maybe best to let the turtles go and shut that fiasco down. 

    Keep the Dolphins, save them from the tuna nets and all that.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Forgot to mention the Pirates Caves in an earlier post. That is the only other place I would take kids under 8. They have actually put a lot of work into this past year and it looks terrific. The cost is also reasonable.

     Unfortunately the rest of Bodden Town is a mess. If I was a tourist, I would be scared to stop a car there – many houses are destroyed, congested development, and unfriendly looking.

    I would recommend moving the business center or moving the cruise ship berths. The two shouldn’t comingle for many reasons.

    Someone with the planning group should check out how other islands provide this capability. St. Maarten in particular has done a terrific job –


  12. Terry Wilton says:

    I visited the Turtle Farm once. It was about three years ago and I will never go back. It may have all changed since then. I hope it has but I doubt it, because I’ve never received any information telling me so.

    My memory is of overcrowded pools with huge, beautiful turtles swimming around surrounded by their own floating faeces, which obviously caused an appalling smell. It was stomach turning.

    There were no explanatory notices. There was no indication at the smaller tanks of the age of the small turtles inside. There was nothing about the life history of a turtle. There was nobody around to ask questions of.

    Luckily, a policeman there took my party of five under his wing and he led us on an unofficial guided tour. He was very knowledgeable and answered questions like, ‘how long turtles live?’ and, ‘How long can they stay underwater?’  Many other people joined us and by the end he was conducting (brilliantly) a group of about 30 people. He was wonderful. We all wanted to pay him something but he refused to accept anything.

    They took our money at the entrance and then we were just left to ourselves. I can’t remember the price of entry but I remember that I was surprised at the high cost. The next day I sent an e-mail expressing my disappointment and asked questions that the policeman couldn’t answer. Is anyone surprised to learn that I never got a reply?

    Since then we have had many visitors from overseas but we have never taken any of them to Boatswains Beach. We have friends arriving on a cruise ship tomorrow. We wont go to BB. We’ll treat them to a real Caymanfood experience instead.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Oh Cayman Went….Where art thou?

    When the big boys in Miami tell you that you’r marketing campaign is a failure, sailor take warning. Cayman’s "center of the universe" attitude has come in gone except in the minds of those who make the deals.

    The Turtle Farm or whatever they want to call it was ill concived from the very get go. The shark tank is often dirty, blazing hot to sit and look at and is frankly way too small. Why would anyone want to swim in their concrete "lagoon" when the Caribbean Sea is uhm, like 100 yards away? West Bay public beach is a mere mile down the road! The food is so sub par and overly priced that its an insult to tourist who already got nickle and dimed into their cruise ship bought admission ticket. Oh and the turtles?? Poor guys just slap and poop all over each other in that cesspool they have. Everyone complains about the dolphins but they have way bigger pools and they dont have to share it with 400 other dolphins.

    Yes the strip malls, dusty construction sites and over bearing SMB hotels have erased any Caribbean charm left on GC and just look to any other nearby island to know what that is.And the East End is so neglected its lost its charm because frankly there’s nothing to do out there. No island runs things any where close to perfect but Cayman had a real shot at creating a sustainable and interesting port of call. Now downtown is a movie set open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on cruise days, eating out for two costs $60 CI or more and you couldn’t even score a patty on the beach if you wanted to. There are only hints of Cayman’s past left in the form of boarded up old houses in the middle of downtown and a fish market made from PVC next to Hammerheads. No one seems to want to save these tiny bits of West Indie life. Cayman is proof you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You either stay a small close-knit god loving no dancing allowed society with 18 last names or you open your self up to the world for the better or for the worse. That being said, Cayman needs a visionary that can help fix the enormous planning mistakes that were made without any foresight though many influencial Caymanians are afraid of their own people and often are the first to silence themselves for fear of being called out in a church sermon.

    If Atlantic Star gets its way not only will hog sty bay become the most densly populated part of all of Cayman but how fun will it be to drive through downtown at any time of day? Cayman needs to take a note from places like Santa Fe, NM where strict building codes keep a simbilance of their native american culture alive and omnipresent. Also Cayman could take a bold step in creating an effective transit system along west bay road (i.e. cheap electric trolley?) that would not only be it’s own tourist site but would get half people from place to place on GC without having to import or buy another car just to ditch it along a round about once they leave. This list goes on and on, for a well seasoned travler its easy to harp on Cayman. The concern comes from just hating to see what really is a unique place become very un-unique. Oh and what media mogul on island is in charge of Boatswains Beach Turtle Farm marketing campaign??? I wonder if MCM saw this story!


  14. Driving blind says:

    One of the biggest problem I see with the tourist product is the lack of direction from government.  One day, they want to cater to the cruise ships, the next day they want to coddle the extremely wealthy, then they want to get back to luring divers and stay over tourists.  Which demographic is it or what mix are they looking for?  I have yetto meet anyone who cruised there and said they would return for a stay over vacation.  Over priced, crowded and not very beautiful were the prevailing complaints listed.  And if you were interested in staying on GC, most are stopped "dead in their tracks" when they quote out airfare.  Once they pick themselves up off the floor from seeing the cost of flying there, they simply move on to another Caribbean locale.

    Cayman has a great product, but there needs to be a commitment to develop it and the resolve to stay with it, and oh, lowering the airfare would be a great place to start.    


  15. Anonymous says:

    The last time I took our children to Boatwain’s Beach, I was grossly embarassed and ashamed of the condition of the tanks.  The Predator tank glass and distressed inhabitants were covered in thick green algae from shameful neglect.  Worse, there is very little evidence or explanation of actual Turtle conservation work going on anymore.  Iunderstand that fewer than 10 are released annually, down from "bucket loads" in the pre-Michelle days (when people could be proud of the Farm). 

    Here’s an idea, perhaps we could voluntarily refrain from eating/serving the internationally endangered species until the Farm’s breeding stocks are actually breeding?!?  The act of preservation of our indigenous endangered animal species should be a source of national pride and honour.  Instead, the world sees our national pride fueled by the disgraceful belief that we have been divinely chosen to consume and deplete His endangered fruits…where is the honour and beauty in that?           

    No amount of contrived basket weaving, fake waterfalls, and non-functional touch tanks can cover up the international disgrace that the Farm has become.        

  16. Caymanite says:

    Oh dear Cayman, the rest of the world is starting to figure out that we don’t have much to offer tourists…….now what?

    I agree about SMB – totally ruined now with the monstrous condos that overlook pretty much every aspect of it. There is only Public beach that hasn’t been built on and that gets so packed with people at the weekend it is starting to resemble Benidorm in Spain!

    Most tourist traps here are over priced and not really all that interesting. Sure the botanic park is lovely, but how many tourists want to spend the day there? Really?

    Cayman has sold out to the condo developers and it really is sad.

    Shame on you who complain about the rich moving onto your beachfronts but then turn around and do work that completely helps it to carry on. Sell outs. What good will a Mercedes Benz be when your kids have nothing left to call their own of the culture of their own islands? Think about it.

    Tourists will go elsewhere, expats will go elsewhere, where will YOU go?

  17. Derek Trotter says:

    Fair points really:

    100% agree.  I have friends coming to stay next month and I’ll be telling them not to bother with the turtle farm, overpriced and underkept.

    And god help them if they try to vivist the dolphin cages.

    As for Hell, I already sent a postcard from there, but that was in Norway, and it’s a nice place, not like the ridiculous spectacle here.

    Cayman needs to wise up, it’s tourism product is waring thin, yep, there’s a lovely beach, but these beaches can be found elsewhere in the Caribbean, and indeed other parts of the world.

    Geographically, Cayman has little else to offer, so they’ll have to start looking at new ways of entertaining people.   Most of my visitors, when asked how their holiday was, generally say, yeah, it was nice to see Derek and Raquel.  They’re diplomatic.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Well changing the name of the Turtle Farm to Boatswain Beach was only an effort to get more votes for the Leader. And so is changing the name of Pirates Week, this is another big effort to gain public suppport for the Leader. A name like Turtle Farm, is hard to to bulid, but remember it was billed as the World’s only Turtle Farm for many years. That name is worth $100 Million in marketing. I also say the name Pirates Week is also worth keeping and only changing the content and focus to cultural events and historic folklore. We should also add the Heroes Day celebration in wih this event as Heros Day adds no other value to the Caymanian people, in fact Heroes Day is a bit heavy for such a diluted, yes bunch of crap. 

    The Leader has been talking about getting the US Immigration to come to Cayman for more than 16 years. What has he done about this? Last thing I heard we could not afford to have them here. Has anything chenged since then?

    Spotts dock, for years has been an eye sore but the tourist do not necessarily want to see more money traps there. We should do a study to determine what  would be the best "theme" for constructing a landing area that fits in with increased size and class of cruise ships that will visit in the years to come. For sure we do not need more liquor stores on the island to serve the tourist.

  19. Anonymous says:

    No one has mentioned the Botanic Park, which is by far one of the best values on the islands.  You can spend a whole day there in peace and beauty, with the chance to see one of the rarest iguanas in the world….why is this place not pushed more for the tourist?

  20. No golf? says:

    They will complain much more in the coming months about the loss of the only 18 hole golf course on the island.  Unless someone does something soon there wil only be one badly-kept 9 hole course for the public to use (PS non-golfers – a 9 hole course just does not cut it with serious golfers).   And so Cayman’s tourist product gets that bit poorer.

  21. Hatty Tudor says:

    19.05 is right.  The only reason ships stop here must be geography.  Cayman is not particularly beautiful compared to other islands; this is being nice, many visitors call it plain ugly. 

    SMB is now like most other overdeveloped beaches), has little history of any interest to anyone who does not live here and there is nothing of any cultural importance. 

    Commercialism has made things worse.  So have restrictions on business ownership which has reduced competition, which reduces the quality of service and pushes up prices, generally only for the benefit of the wealthy capital-owning groups of society.

    Cayman must realise how little it has to work with and act appropriately, not live in a dream-world that it is the paradise of the Caribbean.

  22. Twyla M Vargas says:

    "Boatswain Beach Turtle Farm"

    I like the name Boatswain Beach, but I must agree it is misleading.  When I first heard about the name change, and before visiting,   I was of the impression that a beach area was developed alongside the turtle farm.  I was most shocked when I visited a few months ago to see the dolphins.   I thought the dolphins would be a good thing also, for the Cayman Islands, but I did not find the visit to be as exiting as I expected.  Taking along at least 5 kids who quickly found it boring and wanted to visit the other side.

    Something more has to be done to enhance the place if we want tourist to visit.  The little restaurant is OK, but very expensive to buy burgers and such.   Bathroom facilities yes need improving.  I would suggest maybe calling the beach "Boatswain Beach Turtle Farm"  It is not mis leading.  But to say just "Boatswain Beach  Anyone will be looking for a "Beach"

    Spotts Dock.

    Yes that area needs improving.   I see tourist come off the cruise ships wandering around with the impression that there is nothing but bushes.  In fact that is most of what they will see if they do not have a tour booked.  Not all want to go on tours, soome just wantto walk around and shop for a few gifts.  Why cant the persons from the craft market in town allowed to take their business up there for the days ships are at spotts.  Why cant we be invited to sell small items of cakes, cookies, coconut water, post cards, paintings, patties hot dogs and hamburgers up there.   More business need to be encouraged in that area.

    Last but not least, "US Immigration visitng for visa purposes".  A great thought, it is  long over due.

    Mr MacKeva Bush is a man of action, and I have no doubt in my mind that he will do all he can to make Cayman a better place for all, residents and visitors alike.  Blessed.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Well these issues they are complaining about were created under the UDP government the last time they were in so make them fix it.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree…. it is too expensive and I see why cruise ship passengers would be confused by the name and think that they are going to a beach…… it should have kept its orginally name and what it is….. "the turtle farm"!!! Mckeeva…. this is another name you need to change….to what it used to be.


    Cay Girl

  25. Anonymous says:

    From my experience with visitors – this is one of the few attractions on this island that I feel comfortable bringing kids.

    It is expensive though and obviously doesn’t cover its operational costs.


  26. Anonymous says:

    There’s nothing can be done with Boatswains Beach-it’s expensive crap. Pedro is another problem-not crap by any means but nothing of real "Caribbean history" interest (as far as tourists are concerned) such as Rose Hall, Sam Lords Castle and a host of other places. We’ve never been able to admit we are just not interesting in the way the other islands are, so we do total crap like the Bodden Town "pirates" cave etc leaving people pissed off at being ripped off, blow holes (yawn), Hell (a patheticchildish disgrace) etc etc.

    What we did have was very considerable charm many years ago but we have been brilliantly successful in throwing that away.

    • Twyla M Vargas says:

      19:05  I Must agree with most of your comments.

      Some of these Tourist sites are pure Crap.  The Boatswain Beach Turtle Farm needs more put into it.  Not exciting enough.  Needs some outside caribbean music, needs little small booths selling different things, popcorn, local candies/mints, a few small island paintings, hair braiding, Island sents, like perfumes and soaps and a small variety of food booths.  One for Popsorn, One for local candies/mints, patties and so on.  So that the visitor can move around and find different things of interest.  Not everything just jammed up in one spot.  Food in one spot, T Shirts and other gift items in one spot.  It is a Bore, trust me.  

      The Pirates Cave in Bodden Town, what can I say its Ok if you feel like relaxing in somebodys back yard.   It has no Ummph to it.  Boring………Pedro Castle, that was a rundown turned into fish tea.   Boring, boring boring.   Many years ago When Mary Peever from Canada was running things out there it was much better.  Now,  You might as well visit the Cemetery.   Boring.    Blow Holes, where are they.   What I see is that every one wants to get rich with the dollars without offering anything good in  return.  These places are a drag.  Too dead, boring and not encouraging to revisit.   Blessed.

  27. Fair points really says:

    Everyone who has stayed with me while they vacation here who has visited the Turtle Farm has agreed it was too expensive and not worth visting.  ("Crap" is the most common review).  Now I tell visitors not to bother with it.  And if any of my guests visited the dolphin abuse centres I would kick them out of my home.