By Theresa Goodwin
The arrival of five cruise ships in St John’s on Saturday was celebrated by tourism bosses who say they are optimistic about the sector, despite the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The city harbour was a sight to behold with the arrival of the Azamara Quest which docked at the south of the Nevis Street pier with 376 passengers. North of the pier was Grandeur of the Sea with 792 passengers.
Celebrity Millennium, which brought 500 passengers, docked at Heritage Quay, along with MSC Seaview with 756. Spirit of Adventure, which made its inaugural call to Antigua, docked at the newly built fifth berth.
Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez said while most of the vessels are still not operating at full capacity, the arrivals show that the tourism sector is on the road to recovery.
“Saturday was a very important day for us. It shows that the cruise sector is coming back. Unfortunately it is not yet back to full throttle; because of protocols the ships are around 50 percent capacity,” Fernandez said.
He said while the vessels had a capacity of around 12,000 passengers combined, less than half of that were welcomed at the seaport.
He added that downtown St John’s was abuzz with activity due to the influx of visitors, plus locals who were cashing in on the ABST-free weekend.
Meanwhile, a statement from Antigua Cruise Ports (ACP) said the month of December is set to be one of the busiest on record since the resumption of cruises in July with over 65 calls expected.
It said, since reopening the cruise port, ACP has welcomed 76 cruise calls surpassing projections by 4.1 percent, and Saturday was yet another reason to celebrate as they welcomed five vessels into the port for the very first time.
Port and tourism officials were among those who welcomed the captain and crew of the Spirit of Adventure with a plaque exchange ceremony at the fifth berth.
“We reopened the cruise port almost five months ago with a very modest restart and we are pleased with our performance thus far.
“Saturday was very special for us as the completion of the fifth berth earlier this year allowed us the capacity to now be able to receive more vessels in port, and seeing those five ships perched so beautifully at the cruise port was definitely a captivating sight,” said Dona Regis-Prosper, the port’s General Manager.
“Recognising that we are still within an active pandemic we continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and Wellness in the execution of protocols to ensure the safety of our guests, service providers, and residents.
“While still not back at 2019 levels, we are looking forward to a continued trajectory of growth,” she said.
She added that 2022 is set to be very promising with over 200 bookings thus far. Upgrades to the Heritage Quay shopping district are also now underway.