By Shermain Bique-Charles
Antigua and Barbuda may have officially struck a deal that could see the country become the home port for P&O Cruises’ forthcoming new ‘green’ ship Arvia.
A home port is the port where passengers begin or end their cruises – most commonly both.
The news, according to Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez, comes after months of negotiations with the company which comes under the Carnival Corporation umbrella.
“We have been working with Global Port Holdings, we have been in communications with Carnival UK in homeporting of the P&O Arvia which is scheduled to start in January 2023,” Fernandez told Observer.
Arvia is set to join P&O’s fleet in December and is the company’s second ship to run on liquefied natural gas, which is said to help slash a cruise ship’s carbon emissions by approximately 30 percent. Arvia has been billed as the British cruise line’s most environmentally-friendly ship.
Fernandez told Observer that P&O’s management team is expected to arrive in the country in October to work out the final details.
“Home porting is something that we said we will be pursuing. We are happy that they have decided to choose Antigua. We have been getting calls from other cruise lines as well,” he explained.
Fernandez said the move would have a variety of benefits.
“This means the cruise will start and end in Antigua. Passengers will have to come in by air so there is an obvious benefit already. Taxi operators will make money by transporting them from the airport to the quay. It opens the opportunity for us to benefit in so many areas in fuel, removal of garbage…,” Fernandez said.
Another advantage is that local residents wanting to book cruises on P&O would no longer need to buy a plane ticket to join the cruise in an overseas port.
It’s not the first time Antigua and Barbuda has been tipped to become a home port, a status it once briefly experienced some years ago. Plans had been in place for luxury cruise ship, Crystal Symphony of Crystal Cruises, to begin its voyages here from last August.
However, that never materialised after the cruise line ran into financial difficulties. The company ceased operations in February this year.
The cruise industry adds millions to local coffers each year in taxes and expenditure. Globally it became a poster child for the Covid pandemic when countries across the world closed their borders in 2020 in a bid to contain the coronavirus.
Since then, the sector has been on the rebound translating to significant returns for the country already.