By Robert A. Emmanuel
The Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, according to the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda, will invest significantly in a planned entertainment facility in the Fort James area.
In May, OBSERVER media reported that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines would be collaborating with Global Ports Holding in creating the entertainment facility, where—at the time of that report—the cruise line was considering three locations.
At yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Information Minister Melford Nicholas said a Memorandum of Understanding was being drafted to allow Royal Caribbean to begin construction.
“The Government of Antigua and Barbuda had long ago planned to develop the Fort James facility and its precincts into a daytime leisure activity to support the cruise tourism business…and we saw there were possibilities for other types of services to develop along that line. It may involve water taxis to be able to move people from one side of the port of St. John’s to the facilities at Fort James.
“Out of that discussion and the conversation that came with the two major cruise operators, including Carnival Cruise Lines… I think that [Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines] had indicated more than an interest. I think we are at the stage of executing a Memorandum of Understanding for them to be able to develop a daytime facility,” he said, adding that the government is still required to restore the Fort.
Responding to how the facility may impact the historical and cultural significance of the site, Minister Nicholas stated that it was a concern raised with the cruise line at the beginning of the discussions.
“As the conversation develops, we are going to involve our public in it. We want our citizenry not to be looking on from the gallery. We want involvement of persons to say ‘I see myself as a service provider in that environment’… so there are not only patrons but service providers – in the Fort James, with the development of that area – we want to grandfather in.
“We have a feeling that the development will accelerate…the restoration of Fort to bring it back to its former glory; the preservation of the historical place in our heritage it provided; and to develop, adjacent to it, a living environment where it has a market,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was also announced that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines will support this year’s Panorama competition.
Nicholas said the cruise line will invest $50,000 dollars into the competition, adding, “There is an opportunity for steel bands and pannists to be able to avail themselves of potential because included on the services on some of the ships that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines have are steel bands.”