By Makeida Antonio
For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020, three cruise vessels were docked at St John’s Harbour yesterday.
Cruise tourism officials held a plaque exchange ceremony to welcome the Sky Princess on its maiden voyage to Antigua and Barbuda, and the Silver Whisper which has added the twin island nation to its itinerary since its return to Caribbean waters. The third vessel which spent Sunday in the port is the British vessel Britannia.
Minister of Tourism Charles Fernandez expressed his delight in witnessing almost normal activity in St John’s as a result of the ships choosing the country as a top destination.
“Driving through St John’s and coming here was really amazing to see so many people off the ship walking into St John’s. We have the nicest people in the Caribbean, that’s a big thing, but I think in addition to that we’re doing a lot of work to the port and word was gotten out,” he told the media yesterday.
Fernandez explained that technical aspects of the industry have been positively taken into consideration, making a more refined cruise tourism product.
“For example, the captains themselves have told me that the widening of the channel coming in has been a big improvement for them. Traditionally, in high winds, some of the boats have to turn back. That is not happening now, they are very confident in coming in. In addition to that, the fact Global Ports Holding is managing the port has put a new level of management. As you know, they are the largest port operators in the world so they bring a tremendous amount of expertise.”
General Manager of Antigua Cruise Port, Dona Regis-Prosper reported that approximately 2,600 passengers in total were aboard all three ships which docked at the Nevis Street and Heritage Quay piers. She thanked all stakeholders for their hard work in ensuring the safety and security of locals and visitors alike.
“We have our joint efforts of the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Environment where every single passenger that comes to Antigua has to go through that process. We have a team from the Ministry of Health to ensure that the passengers go through that additional screening prior to disembarking into the destination,” she indicated yesterday.
Operations Manager of Antigua Cruise Port, Rawle Reynolds reiterated that having low Covid-19 cases as well as an increase in the vaccination rate makes Antigua and Barbuda a more appealing destination for tourists looking to travel to the Caribbean.