Thousands of cruise tourists ran aground amid four-hour baggage handling delays last Thursday because dozens of longshoreman didn’t bother to show up for work on a hot day.
“It was the worst day at the terminal so far,” Red Hook cruise ship terminal General Manager David Alvarez admitted in a post on the “Cruise Critics” message board, which broke the story of how just 24 workers struggled to load and unload around 15,000 pieces of luggage for 3,000 disgruntled cruisers boarding the Caribbean Princess.
Meanwhile, buses and cars backed up from the terminal entrance at Bowne Street all the way to the tollbooths at the Battery Tunnel.
“It was an absolute disaster,” said local Sid Meyer, a regular cruiser who keeps a close eye on the goings-on in the cruise ship biz. “I saw people getting out of buses and dragging their luggage three-quarters of a mile just to get to the terminal itself.”
Meyer, a twice-a-year big boat passenger, said that he had never seen a debacle of this magnitude at any cruise terminal.
“I’m surprised there weren’t fistfights — that’s how bad it was,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Economic Development Corporation said that the staff was reduced to one-third power because many longshoremen took an unannounced vacation day, perhaps because of the 89-degree weather.
The air around the Red Hook port wasn’t the only thing hot.
“It was THE EMBARKATION FROM HELL!” one cruiser lamented on “Cruise Critics.”
“The bus was approaching the ship at about 1:20 pm and we finally boarded at 5:15 pm!” added Smellytoes. “Preferred boarding did us absolutely no good.”
Fortunately, things were going much better for Smellytoes the next day.
“Somehow I scored two plates full of chocolate-covered strawberries … and the sun came out!”
Representatives from the NYPD, the marine terminal and stevedores were set to hold a meeting this Wednesday to try and prevent such an incident from occurring again.
The Red Hook Marine Terminal has been a departure point for cruise ships since 2006 — and has bothered some nearby residents since it opened.
One local on Columbia Street has made it his personal crusade to get the idling cruise ships, which expel an extraordinary amount of pollution, to be forced to power down their smoke-belching engines and plug into the regular electrical grid while docked.