A&B welcomes hundreds of visitors, a first since the resumption of cruises

(Photo by Elesha George)
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By Theresa Goodwin

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Tourism officials are viewing the arrival of two major cruise vessels in the St John’s Harbour on the same day as a “remarkable” achievement for the sector which is rebounding from the harsh impact of the coronavirus.

Yesterday, Antigua and Barbuda welcomed the Celebrity Apex — which made its maiden voyage and added the twin island state to its itinerary — and the Aida Luna which is owned and operated by AIDA Cruises. A total of 2,700 passengers arrived on the vessels.

Tourism Minister Charles Max Fernandez explained that the arrival of both vessels signals the start of what is shaping up to be a good winter season.

“What this is implying is that the cruise sector is rebounding in a very positive way. This month is a very positive month for us as we are hoping to welcome an Oasis class ship. The responses from the captain of both vessels were also outstanding,” the minister said.

Dona Regis-Prosper. General Manager of Global Ports Antigua Limited, said the arrival of both vessels is a good look for the destination which welcomed only 85 passengers when cruises resumed months ago.

This development is also coming at time when the government has loosened the restrictions on the sector allowing arriving passengers to interact more with vendors, taxi drivers and others. Prior to a few weeks ago, only pre-approved or private tours were conducted with fully vaccinated visitors and a few merchants around Heritage Quay.

“We are indeed very happy to have these two ships in port today. We also have free flow so it’s an opportunity for economic impact; it’s great for the destination and is great for the local economy as well,” Regis-Prosper said.

She also explained that while there is a level of free flow at the dock, the health and safety protocols will still be enforced.

“Even though it’s free flow, they must follow all the rules that are in the country. It’s a part of the memorandum that was sent to the cruise lines and it’s a part of what we have to do as a port operator to ensure persons are guided accordingly. Everything that applies to residents in Antigua and Barbuda applies to the visitors as well,” Prosper added.

Meanwhile, economic activity at the St John’s Harbour has not changed in any major way despite efforts by the government to loosen the restrictions to allow for more business activity.

In, fact a few merchants told our newsroom that while there is an increase in passenger traffic, tourists would walk in and out of stores without purchasing anything.

Some say they have also resorted to having sales and introduced discounted prices with hopes that they would be able to attract more customers who are disembarking the vessels.

They however remain hopeful that things will turn around for the better as the number of arrivals increase in the coming months.

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