Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez, will lead the talks on the government’s behalf on Friday with the executives of Carnival Cruise Lines to discuss a recent decision by the company to cancel scheduled calls to Antigua and Barbuda.
The meeting followed a telephone conversation last Wednesday between Prime Minister Gaston Browne and the Chief Executive Officer for Carnival Cruise Lines.
The PM stated on the weekend that the Tourism Minister will lead the discussion and he is optimistic that the talks will be meaningful. “I remain hopeful that the talks will result in a win for all stakeholders,” Browne said on Saturday.
He did not mention whether the meeting will be held in Antigua or Miami. Last week, both the government and representatives from Carnival Cruises agreed to refrain from making any public statements or comment about Carnival’s withdrawal from the destination.
Meanwhile, the government has admitted that the recent pullout by Caribbean Cruise Lines has a lot to do with its agreement with Global Port Holdings or GPH.
GPH recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government to enter into a long-term concession for cruise port operations in the country, including St. John’s cruise port where most of the passenger traffic is concentrated.
The 30-year agreement includes the financing of the fifth cruise pier to accommodate the OASIS class vessels, and additional investments aimed at improving the shopping and other entertainment amenities for cruise passengers in and around Heritage Quay.
On Thursday, Information Minister Melford Nicholas told reporters that the matter surrounding GPH was the real reason for the Carnival cancellations.
“It was their concern over the Global Port arrangement, and they are perhaps, maybe their perceptions that it would be disruptive to their business and I think when we have the discussions, we would be able to allay the fears,” Nicholas said.
Four Carnival cruise ships were scheduled to call in Antigua in 2020.
However, Carnival Breeze, Carnival Magic, Carnival Legend, and Carnival Pride will now be visiting other ports instead of Antigua.