Princess Cruises, a Carnival Corporation-owned cruise line, is facing substantial resistance to its plans for a two-year pilot historical cruise program in Yorktown, Virginia.
A grassroots group has gathered over 5,000 signatures on a petition opposing the initiative, raising various concerns from environmental impacts to potential alterations in the town’s unique cultural fabric.
Yorktown follows the example of several villages and cities that have been increasingly vocal about their concerns about visiting large cruise ships.
Controversy Brews over Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises faces increased resistance to its calls scheduled to sail to Yorktown in Virginia. A local group, Preserve Yorktown, has already raised 5,435 signatures on its petition at change.org.
“The character of Yorktown, the home to the final victorious battle of the American Revolution, is threatened. We ask that concerned citizens speak out against these ships that will radically alter the character of Yorktown and may have harmful impacts on the York River and the protected site of the Revolutionary War ships in its waters,” reads the petition.
The petition also refers to Princess Cruises’ past criminal convictions for environmental contamination, raising concerns about the health of the York River’s complex and fragile ecosystem.
The cruise line announced their Yorktown itinerary in February, promising an influx of tourism to the area. The program was initially discussed with some York County Board of Supervisors members in December 2022.
However, the full scope of the proposal was not revealed to Yorktown residents until a forum at the American Revolution Museum this past August. Locals say this delay has resulted in transparency concerns and a loss of faith in local government.
“The citizens of York County have not been included in the decision about Princess Cruises that has a significant impact on our historic community, environment, and the quality of life in Yorktown,” according to the petition.
Two Ships Scheduled to Make Five Calls
Princess Cruises is planning to send two ships to Yorktown on five cruises in the summer of 2024. Three of these cruises will be on the 91,627 gross tons Coral-class cruise ship Island Princess and two onboard the 113,561 gross tons Emerald Princess, which can accommodate 2,200 and 3,080 guests, respectively.
Princess Cruises’ president, John Padgett: “We couldn’t be more excited about this incredible opportunity to add this truly unforgettable destination experience to our already impressive array of itineraries.”
On its website, the cruise line said the calls will have a significant economic impact on the region, which has played an essential role in American history.
However, while the visits might mean an economic boost to the area, the visits to Yorktown and the ensuing complaints from residents fit into a trend that has been developing worldwide.
In recent years, while cruise lines have experienced a surge in passenger numbers and an increasing demand for unique, less-traveled routes, there’s also been notable resistance from local communities who don’t view the presence of large cruise ships as advantageous to their areas.
A Growing Trend of Resistance
The opposition to Princess Cruises’ plans in Yorktown echoes a broader trend. Recently, the Cornish town of Fowey saw spirited public debate following the arrival of the Spirit of Adventure, a Saga Cruises ship, which temporarily inflated the town’s population by almost half.
In another instance, the Orkney Islands Council has been revising its cruise reservation framework due to the sheer volume of visitors. On some days, over 7,000 cruise ship guests flood the islands, overwhelming a local population of just over 22,000. Other destinations that have spoken up against visiting cruise ships include Juneau, Alaska, Venice Italy, and Istanbul, Turkey.
Stephen Roane, York County District 4 supervisor, stated to Chesapeakebay Magazine: “Regardless of the possible benefits, the board and county staff will need to diligently ensure the cruise line’s visits are overall a positive experience for York County…That our marine environment doesn’t suffer, our unique culture and character isn’t disturbed, and that the economic benefits outweigh the costs.”
Whether Princess Cruises will adapt its proposal in response to local pushback remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the increasing resistance to cruise line expansions in smaller communities is a trend the industry can no longer overlook.