I promised myself I wasn’t going to write more posts about Boston for a while and focus on other subjects instead. But I don’t want to talk about politics, guns, abortion, or religion and most of today’s current events seem to focus on one of these.
Then Monday happened.
Getting Wet at the Flynn Cruiseport
It rained in Boston. At times, it poured buckets. I had a scheduled tour at the Flynn Cruiseport. Fortunately, the rain let up while I was walking from Massport’s Cellphone Waiting Lot to the pier, so I didn’t really get wet. Once I reached the pier, however, the heavens opened up again.
The cruise ship, Silver Shadow, had docked at what Massport calls—in a masterpiece of marketing—the Empty Space. This part of the pier lies east of the Flynn Cruiseport building and is thus out in the open. On days like yesterday when three ships arrive, the smaller vessels such as those from Viking and Silverseas, dock at the Empty Space.
Walking in the Rain
That means passengers on Silver Shadow had to walk the length of the pier in pouring rain with no protection to reach the buses and vans that would take them on shore excursions. It is not a short walk. The passengers pay extra for these excursions because they want to see the city. The ship provided them with umbrellas but it’s difficult to hold an umbrella when you are mobility impaired and using a device to support you. Besides, why should you have to walk in the rain?
The folks working the pier also had problems because it’s awkward to shuffle papers and get the right information to the right people and hold an umbrella. A small 10’x10’ tent provided some protection, but you can’t stand in one place and do your job. The folks providing shore excursions have to talk to bus drivers, the ship’s shore excursion coordinators, tour guides, state police officers, and others. They move around. So, they just pulled up the hoods on their slickers and got wet.
Toughing It Out Like the Puritans
Massport expects employees and visitors alike to tough it out at the Flynn Cruiseport. Rain? Hah! What was rain to the Puritans? Just get out there and slog your way to the bus. You’ll dry off—eventually.
Let me remind you that cruise ships and their passengers brought $135 million into the city last year. That number will increase this year because more cruise ships arrived in 2023 and they came earlier. That make me happy because some of that money came to me and my fellow tour guides in wages and tips.
You would think, though, that for so much money, Massport would treat its cruise-ship passengers somewhat better. Would the cost of a walkway out to the Empty Space be prohibitive? How about as a percentage of $135 million?
Now, most cruise ports would provide a cover of some kind so passengers would not get soaked. A permanent one would be nice but, as September and October are the most crowded months for tour ships, it would really be needed only then. Put it up in September and take it down in November and you’re done.
But not Boston.
Waiting for the Bus
On Tuesday, passengers from a different cruise ship took the long walk down from the Empty Space to take my tour. The bus we needed was on its way back from a morning tour, so we all waited for it to arrive.
Everyone stood around because there are no benches where the buses park. Even this simple and relatively inexpensive courtesy seemed beyond Massport’s abilities.
A candy wrapper blew across the ground and I picked it up. Then I looked for a trash barrel to put it in but I couldn’t find one of those, either. I guess we’re supposed to leave litter where it lies instead of doing the right thing to keep the area clean.
A Substandard Welcome
The facilities at the Flynn Cruiseport are substandard by comparison with other cruise ports. I know this because I have asked my fellow Viking travelers online to describe their experiences. Forcing people to walk in the rain does not provide a positive introduction to Boston.
I won’t even mention how the Flynn Cruiseport’s bathrooms have no soap at the sinks and yellow water in the toilets. Yet, somehow, the facilities in the Innovation Design Building across Black Falcon Avenue are clean and well-supplied. During the week I use the IDB’s bathrooms–who wouldn’t–but they are closed on the weekends.
Many times, passengers ask me where the nearest CVS or Walgreen’s pharmacy is located. There is nothing close by. Nor are there comfortable seats in the Flynn Cruiseport or even heat on a cold fall day.
Boston can do better. Massport can do better.
It puzzles me why the city persists in behaving like a second-tier city when it is such an attractive destination for so many people.
We need to welcome visitors to our city with an experience that makes them feel welcome, valued, and appreciated—rain or shine. Right now, we are far from that goal.