The Florida Caribbean Cruise Association’s Return to Sail Summit in Miami this week proved to be a harbinger of good news for the cruise industry and stakeholders involved. After the summit, the chief executive officer of the St Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA), Beverly Nicholson-Doty, announced the famous and beautiful Port Castries in St Lucia would see the return of the first cruise ship this week.
The arrival of Celebrity Millennium will mark the first of many cruise ships that have scheduled port calls. It is an important milestone for the small island nation that depends for a large part on tourism.
St Lucia aiming for gradual reintroduction of cruise tourism
Celebrity Millennium will call in St Lucia on Tuesday with around 400 passengers onboard. While it is certainly not the numbers yet that the island will be used to, it is an important start. The island plans to gradually ease into cruise tourism, much like the cruise industry itself.
That being said, Royal Caribbean Group has cruises scheduled for July 13 and August 10, while other cruise lines have also signaled their intent for cruises in the near future.
Tourism Minister, Dominic Fedee, had this to say:
“It’s a great day for vendors, taxi drivers, workers of the duty-free stores at Pointe Seraphine, and the general economy. This is another step towards the successful reopening of our economy and returning to our normal lives.”
According to the Jamaica Gleaner, St Lucia has many businesses that depend on cruise ships to call in the port. As many as 1000 people depend on the cruise lines directly for their employment, while the cruise industry accounted for a total economic contribution of $59 million in the 2017/2018 season.
In 2019 this grew even further with 786,703 cruise visitors, a 3.5 percent increase over 2018. Although it will be essential to restart the economy again, it will need to happen safely.
Safety of the Population is of Paramount Importance
Cruise ships, despite the vaccinations and testing measures, do bring some risk with them. St Lucia has been involved with regular meetings with the cruise lines, handling agencies, and the local cruise committee. According to the Ministry of Health, the safety of the local population is and will remain an important factor:
“Keeping the health and safety of the population is 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,”
There will be significant advantages for cruise ship guests that have been vaccinated. Those that have not been vaccinated will be restricted to organized tours:
“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.”
Guests who have been vaccinated will enjoy expanded access to the island, including shopping, dining, beaches, and more.