International experts offer ideas for cruise ships in Charleston

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Downtown Charleston has become a battleground between historic preservationists and the cruise industry, but some international ideas may help the two sides strike a balance for the port of Charleston.

The Preservation Society of Charleston says the charm of the city is its intimate setting, and it`s not designed for massive ships.

"When the scale of the tourism transportation is bigger than what people are coming to see, when that's blocking views of the water from the city or of the city from the water, that creates a real concern," explains Evan Thompson, executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston.

The international symposium is the first of its kind in Charleston where year-round cruises have sparked state and federal lawsuits. A tourism expert, who traveled from Norway, says more cities need to take charge of their development.

"It's really important to be clear on where you stand and say this is what our destination is going to be like," says Kristian Jorgensen. "If you want to be a part of that, you're welcome. If not, go somewhere else."

While that approach may seem harsh, economic consultant Brian Scarfe says cruise lines need to be challenged by cities and not just at the federal level.

"Cities often say these are off-shore things. We don't have much jurisdiction, and they wind up ducking, and so the conversations occur between the port authority and the cruise lines."

Environmental concerns also dominated the discussion. Royal Caribbean says  it takes its  responsibility seriously.

"Our job is to minimize the environmental footprint, but also to work with host communities because at the end of the day a cruise is the wonderful experience you can have on the ship, but it's also starting in wonderful destinations like Charleston," says Jamie Sweeting, a Royal Caribbean representative.

According to a conference spokesman, Carnival Cruise Lines was invited, but did not attend Wednesday or Thursday. The symposium is hosted in part, by the Preservation Society of Charleston. That group is suing Carnival. They claim the ships violate city laws and bring too much noise and pollution.