by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – “I am pleased to state that we have been able to confirm the arrival of the Celebrity Equinox, our first vessel to arrive at Port Zante since March 2020. The vessel is anticipated to arrive with over 1400 passengers on Tuesday 14th September 2021,” said Minister of Tourism Hon. Lindsay Grant during a press conference on Monday, Sept. 6.
Although the Seabourn Odyssey was the first cruise ship to return to our shores on July 22, it did not make its calls at Porte Zante. The seven calls the vessel made were all at the Carambola Beach Club on Friars Bay. The return of a cruise ship is a significant step in the challenging restart of cruise tourism in the Federation.
Even with the ship arriving at Port Zante, Minister Grant reaffirmed the position held at the start of this phased reopening that citizens should not expect to see cruise passengers walking the streets of Basseterre.
Port Zante is expected to become a part of the bubble for cruise passengers.
“Port Zante itself will become a bubble. We are at this time working assiduously with the COVID-19 task force, the UDC to operators and retail operators at Port Zante to finalise the logistics of this model. In addition, all individuals interacting with cruise ships; guests, including SKASPA security, customs, immigration, retail operators, vendors, taxi and tow operators, bus operators and attraction site employees must have completed the travel approved training, facilitated by the St Kitts Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Health, and their partners, and must be fully vaccinated.”
Adding Port Zante to the Bubble has been the next biggest step since Cabinet approved antigen testing for cruise passengers in August 2021.
How do the authorities intend to keep the security of the bubble intact?
“As it speaks to securing the area, we have gone through about three walkthroughs, with a task force, including UDC including the Coast Guard, including the police force, and other members of the task force giving their input. There is going to be [a] physical security perimeter put around Port Zante; they are going to be in an enclosed area. The difficulty we have had is that Port Zante, as we know, is the only open port in the Caribbean, so it has benefited us many years pre COVID But where we sit now because there are so many openings, there are so many walkways, when you come out it’s like an octopus from the arrivals hall, we have to secure the area. So there are some individuals outside of retail because we have offices, we have a spar, we have restaurants. Those entities are still to indicate to us as we work through the process by the end of this week, what their status is going to be, will they like to be in the bubble or not because it also affects where the physical perimeter is going to be. As it speaks to our craft vendors, at this point in time, we only have four craft vendors that are fully vaccinated and that have gone to the training. Those persons we are working with our program to have them on rotation, just as we do with our taxi operators that will be doing independent tours. That will be launched at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day that a cruise ship is in, outside of pre-booked,” Raquel Brown, CEO of the St Kitts Tourism Authority.
Additionally, Minister Grant, in his remarks, outlined new protocols to guide this phase of the opening of the cruise sector.
The first ship back at Port Zante next Tuesday (Sept. 14) can be likened to a pilot for future cruise ships, vendors, tour operators and the tweaking of policies as the cruise sector develops.