by Dominique Lescott
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – Celebrity Cruises Lines has responded to allegations by a local tour operator of unfair booking practices.
Local Tour Operator Annie Fontaine Christopher claimed that Celebrity Cruise Line discouraged its passengers from disembarking in St. Kitts from booking with independent operators, instead choosing only providers affiliated with booking agency Shore Ex.
Associate Vice President of Global Public Relations and Social Media Susan Lomax, responded to WINN’s request and said, “to confirm our position regarding excursions in St. Kitts, all vaccinated guests can take appropriate government-approved independent excursions, including visiting the shops in the enclosed Port area. Working with our destination partners, we look forward to continuing to provide vacation memories that last a lifetime.”
There are strict criteria for an Independent Tour Operator to achieve in order to facilitate tours approved by the Tourism Authority.
According to Mrs Christopher, attracting the attention of cruise lines is expensive. Mrs Christopher says she has attended a trade show in Panama and has spent in excess of $10,000 USD to showcase her knowledge and capabilities.
Mrs Christopher claims the tour passengers are not profitable for independent tour operators after the cruise lines add fees.
Mrs Christopher stands by her claims that Cruise Lines are discouraging pre-booking with local operators.
“We’re approved by the Tourism Authority, yet the cruise line is telling the guests not to book with the independent operators”. Christopher says the reasons the passengers are being given is that “if they book with us, they will be robbed, they would be left, and would not be safe”.
A widely circulated video last week showed cruise passengers suggesting that cruise lines are directing passengers to specific tours.
However, Celebrity Cruise V.P of Public Relations Lomax also said, “Celebrity Cruises aims for consistency in communicating destination shore excursion policies to our guests, which can be subject to change depending on the current guidance in each country our ships visit.”
St. Kitts and Nevis Tourism has responded and is reviewing the policies and practices. Deputy CEO of Tourism Melnecia Marshall confirmed on WINN FM’s Island Tea, their efforts to address the claims.