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The official return of cruise ships to the shores of Antigua and Barbuda may have to wait until summer 2021.

But even then, only smaller vessels will be arriving in the first instance.

This is according to General Manager of Antigua Cruise Port – Donna Regis Prosper.

She said, “The cruise lines have confidence in us as one of the destinations in the Caribbean that they could return to, and based on that we are looking at a possible summer return. We are starting small with smaller cruise lines because we believe that these protocols have to be tested, and then we are also starting with homeporting operations for a luxury line, Crystal Cruises.”

Minister of Tourism Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez confirmed this with Observer specifying that the industry should be back up and running by June.

“The cruise industry in Antigua and Barbuda is expected to resume in June of this year, including homeporting. In relation to air arrivals, we continue to see a slight uptick over the past few months, and we believe this is going to continue especially into June, July,” he stated.

Prosper further shared that while the cruise industry has been grounded due to the pandemic, officials have been busy laying the ground work and promoting in anticipation for the projected return of the industry in the summer.

She said the newly-developed fifth berth in St John’s offers new opportunities.

“We have been continuing to work in terms of promoting Antigua as a cruise destination, and also the new fifth berth as a berth that checks a lot of boxes. The berth that will be able to accommodate the largest vessels in the world. It is also a berth where there is a huge land space adjacent to that berth, so we are able to develop the land side facilities to accommodate cruise passengers and also cruise vessels, and also because of all of that, we’ve been able to ensure that we are ready for that restart,” she detailed

The first cruise ship to enter St John’s in more than a year, the luxury 13-deck Celebrity Silhouette, was seen docked at Heritage Quay on Saturday.

But the 3000-passenger capacity vessel was not bearing tourists.

Another vessel from the Celebrity Cruise Line fleet was docked in St John’s Harbour for what is called a technical call and lay-up on Sunday

Celebrity Edge, which houses 114 crew members arrived early Saturday, joining its counterpart Silhouette – which carries 64 crew.

The Celebrity Reflection ship is expected to arrive on Wednesday.

The vessels fled ashfall in Barbados which continues to be impacted by volcanic ash from erupting La Soufriere in neighbouring St Vincent.

Fernandez explained that the crew from these vessels will not be mixing locally. “They fly in and go straight to the ship. Those on the ship come out and fly out.”

“We will be making money from the amenities that will be supplied to them including fuel, food and things like that, “he continued.