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SPA “Hot Berths” Cruise Ship Terminal

Lee Walton

As a life-long Charlestonian, I saw something Monday afternoon while crossing the Ravenel Bridge on my way home that I’ve never seen in Charleston Harbor before. Two large, white cruise ships were literally passing each other in the Rebellion Roads channel as one departed and another entered port to berth at the foot of Market Street at the same SPA Terminal just vacated by the outward bound vessel - so much for the recent SPA inference that there would only about one cruise ship arrival per week. Just imagine what the east side of the Peninsula will look like after Mayor J. Pericles Riley and the SPA complete their plans to redevelop the Union Terminal into a sprawling cruise terminal facility capable of berthing two or more cruise ships at a time. The area from East Bay to the waterfront has the propensity to be full of Fisherman’s Wharf knock-off eateries, trinket shops and cut-rate hotels catering to market rate cruise ship clientele.

One can only imagine the traffic nightmare that occurred east of Meeting from Calhoun to Broad this past Monday as arguably over 5,000 disembarking and embarking passengers traded parking spaces in the neighboring garages and stumbled around uneven blue stone sidewalks looking for the nearest tee shirt shop in the Market. Is this what we’ve come to? Are we now destined to become just another Port Everglades or Key West? Are the citizens of Charleston ready to turn the Peninsula over to a carnival atmosphere crawling with cut-rate tourist jamming our streets and reducing the time honored historic tourism experience to a brief visit for a few cheap trinkets, snapshots from a rickshaw and a one-time meal at an East Bay Restaurant? No wonder locals prefer to shop and dine in the relatively crime-free suburban shopping centers and neighborhood restaurants eager for their loyal patronage. The Charleston tourism experience is in imminent danger of becoming just another a cheap one-night-stand ratcheted down to the level of the Myrtle Beach tourist market.

On a relater matter, for those wondering why CARTA, The City and the SPA are now underwriting the free DASH bus service in the Peninsula, just look at the proposed route from the Market Area, up Meeting to the Visitor’s Center and down King. It’s not for the locals; it’s to transport cruise ship tourists throughout the Market Area and to downtown shops, hotels and restaurants. It seems that every recent announcement from City Hall has included some new obvious or covert benefit for the cruise ship industry.

A few days ago, there was a “Letter to the Editor” in the Palter and Chatter recommending that Charleston emulate the “privy-on-a-trailer” public restroom solution
recently adopted by Myrtle Beach. This would solve another longstanding problem and also obviously benefit the burgeoning cruse ship tourist market.

Why not! But please park the first “privy” in Washington Park just below the Mayor’s window.

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