Tourism minister explains reservations agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines

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Antigua and Barbuda’s Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez explained a key portion of the joint communique with Carnival, which stated that ship docking reservations and scheduling will be made directly with the government.

In its recent press release, the government stated: “It was agreed that berth reservations and scheduling will be made directly with the Government or to an agent appointed by the Government.”

Fernandez dismissed any speculation that the decision is a means of sidelining the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association (ABCTA), Nathan Dundas, because of his publicized criticisms that have annoyed several government officials. Dundas is also the General Manager of Bryson’s Shipping which has been the local agent for Carnival Cruise Lines for over two decades.

But Fernandez said it was because the government wanted to ensure that there was increased communication with Carnival Cruise Lines.

“We had concerns in the past about not being told in advance how many ships were coming [to the island] and, as a result, if we are going to be working closely together, we needed to make sure that there is direct communication between the government and the cruise line,” he said.

A source close to the matter said that although Bryson’s Shipping has been making a schedule of cruise ship arrivals out of courtesy for cruise industry stakeholders, they welcome the government’s agreement which may give the Port Authority responsibility to compile such a schedule.

“What [the press release stated] is that berthing reservations for the ships docking at the ports will now be done by the Port Authority. As a service, Bryson’s Shipping has made up a schedule of cruise ship arrivals for over 25 years – which can be viewed on their website – with copies of the cruise ships’ arrivals printed and used by cruise stakeholders or entities interested in the cruise ship arrivals.

“So, Bryson’s Shipping will welcome the fact that the Port Authority would likely undertake the task to compile the cruise schedule,” the source explained.

The source also told OBSERVER media it was questionable why the government stated in the press release that some calls were being rescheduled.

“The government has understated the impact of the loss of calls for the upcoming winter season through stating that, ‘some calls are rescheduled.’ However, those calls still translate to overall 35 cruise ships – four of which belong to Carnival Cruise Lines – that will no longer be coming to Antigua. I believe that this winter season will be unprecedented in Antigua’s cruise tourism history.”

According to the individual, the government should be concerned about the impact that the cancelled calls will have on the Antiguan and Barbudan economy.

“With three major cruise lines no longer calling in Antigua for the cruise season, it is going to have a significant impact on the economy. It is likely that many tour operators, storeowners and entities will not be able to maintain their current level of workers. Concurrently, taxi drivers and vendors will be impacted as it is less business for them,” the source said.

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