Many cruise ship passengers fly in and out of South Florida airports, stay in area hotels and patronize restaurants and taxis, but they aren't the only ones leaving an economic footprint on the community.
Crew spending is one of several ways cruise ships calling at Port Everglades create an economic impact on the local economy, according to a port study released in April by consulting firm Martin Associates.
"People often forget about the impact that crew members have when a ship is in port," said Ellen Kennedy, the port's spokeswoman.
In the 2012 budget year, Port Everglades— the third-busiest cruise port in the world, behind PortMiami and Port Canaveral — welcomed 838 cruises carrying 3.76 million passengers.
Businesses inside and near Port Everglades say cruise ship crew spending helps to lift annual revenues and typically ramps up in the cruising high season, which runs from October through March.
"We support them and they support us," Yosi Gola said of cruise ship crew members who patronize the convenience and electronics stores his family manages at Seafarers' House at Port Everglades, across from Terminal 18.
The convenience store sells a variety of ethnic food items, snacks, toiletries, phone cards and even a selection of shoes and apparel, among other personal care items. The electronics shop carries watches, cellphones, cameras, voltage adapters and other merchandise. It also stocks luggage and places special orders for items crew members want shipped home.
"You'd be amazed by what they ask for," said Gola, referring to an order of vehicle tires that was shipped recently.
Cruise lines, passengers and crew directly spent $6.7 billion in Florida in 2011, according to a Cruise Lines International Association report on the contribution of the North American cruise industry to the U.S. economy, released last August.
Nationwide, direct spending was $18.9 billion, of which passengers and crew contributed $3.5 billion, the CLIA report said.
As a nonprofit, Seafarers' House focuses on providing services that cater to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of crew members aboard ships based at or visiting Port Everglades.
In addition to on-site shopping, the "casa" offers free Wi-Fi, a multifaith chapel, money remittance services and a complimentary van shuttle throughout the port.
On a recent Saturday, Jose Thomas, a facility cleaner aboard the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas cruise ship, stopped to send money home to family in St. Lucia, and also planned to use the Internet.
"It's pretty cool to have these services available nearby," Thomas said as the Oasis sat docked across the street.
Ship crew who ride the shuttle to the port entrance often end up shopping at the nearby Dollar Tree, Walgreens and Ross Dress for Less judging by the names on the bags that are brought back, Seafarers' officials say.
"These are folks from all over the world putting dollars back in our local economy," Executive Director Lesley Warrick said.
At the Dollar Tree, at 1391 SE 17th St., a manager said the store sees a lot of traffic from cruise ship crews, especially in high season.
"Cruise ship crew shop at a lot of places on Southeast 17th Street," said the Seafarers' chaplain, the Rev. Ronald Perkins. "All of those shops are hugely impacted."
Crew members with enough shore leave will also take the Sun Trolley to the Galleria mall or to the beach, he said.
"Off-season we expect to see around 1,000 visitors over the weekend, while in season there could be about 5,000 seafarers," Perkins said. Annually, Seafarers' House sees about 150,000 visitors.
Since 2008, Luzy's Café has been a fixture at Seafarers' House on the weekends, providing ethnic meals to mariners hungry for a taste of home.
"It's been good for me [financially]," owner Lucy Zhertin said of the food stand. "It's keeping me going."
By Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel
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