by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – The MV Seabourn Odyssey docked in St. Kitts today, signalling a return of cruise tourism to these shores.
Cruise tourism was halted for 15 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A phased approach will be employed in the resumption of cruise tourism limiting the number of ships docking and passengers disembarking at Port Zante.
Global vaccination rates is an integral component in getting cruise tourism back in full. Cruise ships are expected to come with 98 percent of onboard crew and 95 percent of passengers vaccinated.
Melnecia Marshall, Product Development Manager in the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, said in a previous interview on WINN’s Island tea that the ships right now are doing test sailings and not sailing at 100 percent capacity. The ships are expected to sail with 1/3 of the capacity.
The Seabourn Odyssey is docked in the South Friars Bay area near the Carambola Beach Club; the Ministry of Tourism has imposed the following restrictions on Cruise Tourism’s slow restart.
- “ Access to Carambola by the general public will be restricted or limited to mitigate any risk or interaction with international cruise visitors.
- Visitors will ONLY explore the destination via fully vaccinated ‘ Travel Approved’ Bubble Tours.
- Local tourism employees interacting with cruise passengers, including but not limited to ship agents, port staff, taxi and tour operators, are required to be fully vaccinated.
- Passengers and crew are not permitted to interact with the general population.
- Tour Operators are only allowed to transport cruise passengers from the dispatching site directly to the attraction, and after the tour, directly back to the ship after the tour.
The return of cruise ships offers a much-needed bump in revenue for tour operators.
- The following attraction sites/ tours will NOT be accessible to the general public during the hours of 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on the cruise ship day:
- Brimstone Hill Fortress and National Park.
- Carambola Beach Club.
- Caribelle Batik.
- St. Kitts Scenic Railway”
Director-General of the St.Kitts-Nevis Informations Service, Lesroy Williams, shared those new restrictions on behalf of the ministry during the July 21 press briefing hosted by the National Emergency Operations Center.
With the current restrictions, how does this work for tourism stakeholders dependent on cruise tourism?
In an invited comment, local calypsonian and taxi tour operator Sylvester “King Socrates” Hodge gave a more detailed explanation of what is expected of stakeholders.
“In a meeting held between Tourism Minister Lindsay Grant, PS Carlene Morton and Product Development Officer Melnecia Marshall and taxi operators at the Royal St. Christopher Hotel on Monday 19th July, the following was discussed. The arrival of the first two cruise vessels, the Seabourn Odyssey due on Thursday, July 22, and the Celebrity Summit on the 29th, it was noted that there is a low expectation of work for taxi drivers from the Odyssey, which goes to the Carambola Beach Club at South Friars Bay, where the passengers mainly engaged in beach activity and pre-booked events.”
He explained that the second cruise ship, the Celebrity Summit expected next week Thursday, July 29, will have different expectations from the Seabourn Odyssey.
“The Celebrity Summit due at Port Zante on the 29th is expected to bring about 500 passengers, and only fully vaccinated taxi operators will be selected by rotation to work. The tours are scheduled to start from 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The capacity is as follows: 25 seats at capacity the vehicles will be given 15 passengers, 15 seaters will get eight, seven-seaters for passengers and four-seaters, two [passengers]. The destination sites are the Fairview Inn, the Batik factory and the Brimstone Hill Fortress. The tours will travel in tandem, from Gangway to Gangway, that is, from the ship to the vehicle and the destination sites, then directly back to the ship with no interaction with the general public, not even the shops at Port Zante; this was dubbed as a trial phase, and these are the protocols as laid out.”
Even with this restart to cruise tourism, local entrepreneurs whose businesses are dependent on cruise tourism during this initial restart have not been included in the bubble tours as yet.