By Makeida Antonio
The country’s cruise industry officials have expressed excitement following the docking of Viking Cruises’ Viking Orion vessel at the Heritage Quay Pier yesterday.
The Ministry of Tourism and Investment, Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority and Antigua Cruise Port have all welcomed the arrival of cruise ship passengers which they anticipate will stimulate the local economy.
Antigua Cruise Port General Manager Dona Regis-Prosper reported that the elite cruiseline has strictly enforced Covid-19 protocols for crew members and passengers.
“The government officials just like us as port operators are extremely proud of this moment. The fact that first and foremost vessels such as Viking, which is a part of the high-end segment of the market has chosen Antigua as one of the first port of calls in the Caribbean, so that’s exciting,” Regis-Prosper told Observer yesterday.
Daily Covid-19 testing is a part of Viking Orion’s Covid-19 protocols, according to Regis-Prosper.
“Also exciting is that the vessel has strict onboard protocols. There is a lab on board that vessel and everyone is PCR-tested on a daily basis.”
She also indicated that having fully-vaccinated cruise ship visitors should give the public some assurance of safety as the tourism season picks up.
“It gives us a level of comfort that the passengers coming off of the ship have the wellness checks there. In addition to fully vaccinated and negative PCR test, the further health screening that is done at the port, we have taken all the steps to ensure that our residents in Antigua are kept safe, likewise our visitors,” Regis-Prosper said.
Operations Manager Rawle Reynolds, who also spoke to Observer yesterday, said that he believes the free movement of fully-vaccinated passengers will have significant benefit for all parties involved in the tourism industry.
“This morning is historic, so to speak. This is the first of the free flow that was recently announced by the government so, therefore, this is one of the first free day in the cruise season in which individuals can be free to roam the city,” Reynolds said.
Additionally, he said that the free movement of cruise ship passengers has not happened for quite some time, so the Covid-19 protocols have allowed maximum benefits to be reaped by vendors, taxi drivers, tour operators and business operators in St John’s City.
“They are all fully vaccinated to go out to the wider public. Before for the last couple months, about the last few 19 calls we had a continuous bubble in only which a certain sector has been the one to enjoy the benefits from the cruise sector. Now, it is basically free flow and open to all so a visitor can proceed as he/her wishes.”
Viking Orion was docked all day, with visitors coming from the US and European markets. The vessel previously visited Barbados and Dominica, and will eventually make its way to Fort Lauderdale in Florida.