(CMC) — St Vincent and the Grenadines is expecting 224 calls this cruise season after having none last year.
The first cruise ship, Seaborne Odyssey, is expected to call at Port Elizabeth next on August 7, Minister of Tourism Carlos James said, noting that the ship is hoping to call every other Saturday until October.
“This is, of course, the early stages and we are expecting to see more calls being added to St Vincent and the Grenadines as a destination. We anticipate additional calls and, of course, this is subject to, as I stated very early, the caveat as it relates to what transpires with COVID-19, both locally and internationally,” he said.
“We can be announcing this today and the next four, five months we are announcing that we have to go back to the drawing board because of some development in the international market. There is limited movement of people which affects cruise calls to our destination. But, so far, we have roughly 224 calls listed for St Vincent and the Grenadines this season.”
The minister said that of those calls, 14 are inaugural.
“And I think this is a tremendous achievement for our destination,” James said, noting the cruise ships were coming despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosive eruption of La Soufriere earlier this year.
“….This is positive news for us and this can only augur well for stakeholders in the industry and in terms of our economy and I am looking forward to seeing those 14 first-time vessels to our destination.”
James said: “Of course, this is going to be a humongous challenge for us as an industry as to how we navigate in terms of getting persons off the vessels in a safe manner, getting them through the various sites which are tourism approved and getting them back onto the vessel.
“I know with confidence that the team at the Ministry of Tourism, the Tourism Authority and all of our agents will work together…to ensure that this is done in a very successful and smooth way.”
In addition to some smaller vessels, the tourism minister said the destination is expecting calls from larger vessels, such as the Britannia and Azur, which each have a capacity of around 4,000 passengers.
Even though they will not have full passenger loads, in light of social distancing measures onboard and onshore, James said it is still expected that the vessels will bring a significant number of passengers.
“And we have to obviously prepare as to how we handle the season, how we ensure that safety remains the most critical word in all of the operation to ensure that COVID-19 is really something that we can contain and we can handle as it relates to the destination,” he said.
James noted that St Vincent and the Grenadines had no cruise calls last year.
“We are here to signal the resumption of cruise to our destination for this cruise season and we are here to let the general public, including stakeholders, know that we are preparing ourselves, and stakeholders are jointly preparing with us to host all these vessels to St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
He commended Chief Medical Officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache, his team at the Ministry of Tourism, and the COVID-19 Taskforce for coming up with the protocols that would allow for the safe resumption of “early cruise” to the destination.
“We have been working very hard to make sure we make this a reality this year and that we don’t further delay the cruise calls to St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Minister James said.