Celebrity Millennium says thanks
Barbados on Monday received the first cruise ship to visit any port in the Western Hemisphere since a 15-month worldwide hiatus in cruising because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An intimate gathering of ecstatic local tourism officials, a few representatives from a cross-section of the tourism industry and senior management of the Bridgetown Port welcomed the Celebrity Millennium. It was the first stop in a seven-day Caribbean cruise which sailed out of the homeport of Phillipsburg, St Maarten.
On board were over 500 fully vaccinated passengers, just a quarter of the ship’s 2 400 capacity, and a fully vaccinated crew.
Vice-president of destination development at the Royal Caribbean Group, Joshua Carroll, said it was one way of repaying Barbados for the “humanitarian” assistance given to several cruise lines at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were floating throughout the Caribbean; doors were shut on us; we did not have any place to go. We had thousands upon thousands of crew members and Barbados opened their home to us, welcomed us and truly were an oasis in the middle of the Caribbean,” Carroll told the Barbadian guests who included Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins, and Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey.
In his brief remarks, Humphrey said Barbados had repatriated about 21 000 crew, one of whom was working on the Celebrity Millennium yesterday. He said the port lost about 22 per cent of its annual revenue over the last year, but in welcoming back the cruise business, he stressed it was being done with the health and safety of Barbadians in mind, while also creating “a more inclusive” business model in which people operating at the lower rungs of the tourism ladder could benefit more.
Groups of passengers disembarked to steel band music on their way to take advantage of the pre-arranged “bubble” tours offered by taxi drivers operating in the Port and by the larger tour operators. There was strict adherence to the new cruise protocols which recently went into effect, and which Cummins said had been devised through a comprehensive process, working with multiple cruise tourism interests such as the Americas Cruise Task Force.
She said such collaboration would continue “in the interest of an industry which is of one mind” and “with a new mandate”.
“That new mandate has to be the continued review of what the arrangements for cruising will be as we move forward with regard to the CDC [United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] arrangements, the EU [European Union] arrangements . . . and important inputs from the Caribbean Public Health Agency.”
Part of the mandate for the Americas Cruise Task Force, Cummins said, “has to be to create new opportunities for cruise players across the (Caribbean) region”. (GC)