Cruise tourism in Antigua and Barbuda reached new heights on Saturday, January 28, with the arrival of P&O Cruises’ Arvia, the largest cruise vessel to ever homeport in the island nation. The Excel-class ship was greeted with a celebration at Antigua and Barbuda’s new fifth berth as the island and cruise ship prepared to embark and disembark 700 guests.
Arvia is currently sailing her maiden Caribbean voyage. The LNG-powered cruise ship set sail on her maiden voyage on December 23, and has since crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean, homeporting in both Barbados and Antigua this winter.
Arvia Makes Maiden Homeport Call to Antigua
Arvia arrived in St. John, Antigua, on Saturday for the maiden homeport call for the brand-new 180,000 gross tons Excel-class cruise ship. P&O Cruises is a British cruise line that operates under the Carnival Corporation umbrella. Sister ships to Arvia include Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration, as well as Costa Toscana, and more.
As part of the preparations for the Arvia‘s historic visit, Antigua Cruise Port set up a temporary tent equipped with everything needed to make the first homeport call a success.
Dona Regis-Prosper, the General Manager of the Antigua Cruise Port, expressed her pride in the work done before welcoming Arvia, saying:
“We have installed a temporary marquee terminal equipped with check-in counters, customs clearance and immigration inspection areas, baggage scanners, and an efficient passenger flow system to ensure a seamless operation. We look forward to welcoming homeporting and transit guests to Antigua.”
The 700 guests who arrived in Antigua to embark on Arvia were met with a seamless process. The guests could check in, clear customs and immigration, and have their baggage scanned in record time.
Similarly, the 700 guests who disembarked the Arvia were bussed to the airport to await charter flights back to the United Kingdom. The smooth operation was made possible by the effort put in by Antigua Cruise Port, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Airport Authority.
Minister of Tourism, Charles Fernandez, praised the work done to prepare for the day, saying: “I want to congratulate Global Ports Holding for putting this together. I also thank the members of the Ministry of Tourism and the Airport Authority; they have done a tremendous job working with us.”
A Warm Welcome From the People of Antigua
Arvia is the newest vessel in P&O Cruise Lines’ fleet and has a capacity of 5,200 guests and 1,800 crew members. It is the first of four large cruise vessels expected to be homeported on the island throughout the year.
Captain Paul Brown spoke about the vast improvements he has seen over the years but also said there was one constant throughout that time:
“I came to Antigua before Heritage Quay was built, before the Nevis Pier, before all the works in the channel and this fifth pier. I have seen many changes, but one thing has always remained constant, and that is the warm welcome we always receive from the people.”
Arvia will sail from Antigua on seven-night cruises that conclude in Barbados or 14-night cruises returning to Antigua. The cruises will take passengers to some of the most breathtaking destinations in the Caribbean, including Tortola, La Romana, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Martinique, Castries, and St Lucia, among others.
A Bright Future for Cruise Tourism in Antigua
Arvia‘s turn-around operation will once again take place on February 11 and 25 and on March 11.
The ability to homeport in Antigua is due to the construction of a new pier, which was finalized in November 2022 and is part of an $80 million agreement signed in 2019 between Global Ports Holding and the government of Antigua and Barbuda to redevelop the cruise complex. The pier can handle even the Oasis class cruise ships from Royal Caribbean.
Pre-pandemic, Antigua handled about 800,000 passengers annually. With the port’s redevelopment, the destination will be able to serve as many as 1 million cruise visitors a year.