Maxis A No-Show: Tobago Tours Cancelled

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) – The start of Tobago’s 2023/2024 cruise ship season hit a snag on Saturday. There was a lot of dancing at the Scarborough Port but in the midst of the dancing, pan music and moko jumbies, there was disappointment as pre-booked tours for 300 tourists were cancelled due to the non-arrival of maxi-taxis.

According to the Division of Tourism, when the Celebrity Silhouette docked at the Port of Scarborough it marked the start of a season with an impressive line-up of approximately 70 scheduled calls, bringing a total of 116,906 passengers to Tobago.

The cancellation of tours comes even as drivers were informed since October of the inaugural arrival of the Celebrity Silhouette, cruise line agent Charles Carvalho told the Express.

“Last week, we sent the taxi organisation the list of the tours we have for passengers who purchased their tours online, they have not yet even gone on the ship, Tobago was the second port of call in the itinerary, they only board the ship a few days ago so 800-plus passengers had already purchased tours online before they joined the ship. So they were looking forward to participating, experiencing what they have purchased because you know when you disappoint them you know it’s a rippling effect, because they have no trust in the cruise line any more,” Carvalho said.

The Express learnt some of the drivers were of the Adventist faith and, therefore, did not work on Saturdays, while others claimed they had mechanical problems.

Carvalho said that these are the same drivers who transport schoolchildren daily, and are still owed monies from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

In Trinidad, however, said Carvalho, the transportation of tourists to and from the Port of Spain port is more organised.

“In Trinidad, we will send the taxi organisation in Trinidad a list of the tours that we have for a ship coming two days, three days, a week, and we give them updates as we get updates and the day before the ship arrives we have a list of the drivers named, numbers of the buses, if Tom going on this tour, Harry going on this tour, John is going to this tour, so we know which bus going on which tour, so when the buses come to the port, my staff can label the bus, tour number one, tour number two, number three, so when he passengers come off the ship the passengers are there ready to go, all I have to do is look for the sign on the bus, but Tobago it’s like hell,” he said.

“Additionally, we noticed that even though the maxis did not show up for work this morning, all of their independent taxis showed up to hassle the independent passengers! This is not a good sign for the island future cruise ship developments,” Carvalho added.

Suggestion for improvement

Carvalho said the question now is whether more tours for the other cruise lines to arrive would be cancelled. “You would recall that I had indicated to you, last season, that the Tobago Port Taxi Association is not ready for the increase in business and that same association sent letters to Tourism (Division), which a copy was provided to me, indicating that they would like to go and promote their own services to the cruise lines. How can a taxi association that wants to go directly to the cruise lines to offer their services and they are not ready? You cannot go to promote your business and at the same time tell the cruise lines that you cannot guarantee transportation for ships coming on a Saturday because the majority of your drivers are of a certain religion! But there is a solution to the present problem,” said Carvalho.

“I made a suggestion to the Port Authority that the ferry that operates between Trinidad and Tobago is an essential service. I am making a suggestion that we bring some buses from Trinidad the night before on the ferry to service the industry so we could offer a back-up and save the reputation of the island,” he said.

The Celebrity Silhouette left Scarborough for its next port of call, on Saturday, around 6 p.m.

The Maxi-Taxi Association said it will hold a news conference on this matter on Monday.