St Lucia tourism officials on Friday said the return of the cruise liner, Celebrity Millennium, to the island on Tuesday sets the tone for the gradual reintroduction of cruise tourism since the closure due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Celebrity Millennium is due to arrive with an estimated 400-passengers.
The authorities said that Royal Caribbean Cruises to Port Castries calls are tentatively scheduled for July 13, and August 10 and that other cruise lines will also confirm their itineraries in the near future.
“It’s a great day for vendors, taxi drivers, workers of the duty-free stores at Pointe Seraphine, and the general economy,” said Tourism Minister, Dominic Fedee, adding “this is another step towards the successful reopening of our economy and returning to our normal lives”.
The authorities here said that the return of the cruise line, bodes well for business linkages and signals the reinstatement of revenue for well over 1,000 cruise-dependent income earners.
“Keeping the health and safety of the population of paramount importance, there continues to be engagement with all stakeholders including simulation exercises to continuously evaluate the destination’s capacity to safely execute cruise tourism and guard the response during the various stages of reintroduction,” according to a statement by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
It said efforts to ensure the safe re-establishment of cruise calls to port Castries were incessant, with regular meetings with the cruise lines, handling agencies, and the locally established Cruise Committee.
The chief executive officer of the St. Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA), Beverly Nicholson-Doty, earlier this week attended the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association’s (FCCA) Return to Sail Summit in Miami that focused on continuing the work to safely resume cruise calls to St. Lucia.
She also held discussions with several cruise lines for finalizing the protocols that would guide the sector’s operations while on the island.
The statement said that all stakeholders, including the Ministry of Tourism, SLHTA, Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority and Invest Saint Lucia will work in accord to welcome avid cruisers.
“Passengers are encouraged to be vaccinated before prior to travel. In addition to pre-embarkation testing requirements and pre-disembarkation screening in country, with all cruises to St.Lucia in ensuring coordination of the arrival process, passengers will disembark in batches of 25.”
The statement noted that consistent with the issuance of the white wristbands for stayover visitors, all fully vaccinated passengers will be issued with a wristband and allowed to enjoy expanded access to the island including shopping, dining, beaches and more.
“Vaccinated adults accompanying unvaccinated minors, as well as all unvaccinated passengers who wish to disembark the vessel, will be accommodated within a bubble. These passengers will be transferred to designated certified sites and attractions only, and back to the cruise terminal for boarding to their next port of call.”
In 2019, St. Lucia recorded 786,703 cruise visitors, a 3.5 per cent increase over 2018.