St Lucia is gearing up to welcome its first international cruise ship since closure of the sector amid the global COVID-19 pandemic a year ago.
The St Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) said in a statement on Monday that following considerable dialogue with local authorities, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line decided that the island will be a port-of-call on a mid-July itinerary that will see the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship make its first voyage of the season to the destination, as well as to sister islands and homeports of St Maarten and Barbados on its Southern Caribbean route.
“We are enthusiastic that with the advent of science and technology amid this pandemic, we can prepare for a silver lining,” said Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee.
“The impact of the cruise sector has been noted the world over and its absence has left an impression on our island’s people. We are therefore looking forward to working within strict protocols to see the successful resumption of the sector.”
Preliminary discussions with Royal Caribbean include a commitment that both passengers and crew over the age of 18 years would all have been vaccinated, full compliance to pre-arrival COVID-19 testing, and that tour operations would be conducted within a Green Corridor.
Additionally, all persons disembarking would be subject to the standard protocols of wearing a facemask, physical distancing, and sanitising. The overall aim is to ensure that while the cruise sector can continue to benefit the local economy, as a collective, we can also ensure that our local populace is kept safe.
A special committee has been established to provide oversight of the resumption of cruise tourism which includes the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Health, Port Health, St Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority, Invest St Lucia, Customs, Immigration, Port Security, Royal St Lucia Police Force, St Lucia Tourism Authority, and cruise agencies Cox and Company Limited and Foster and Ince.
Over the next few weeks, the committee will meet regularly to closely review and approve protocols for the resumption of the cruise industry, port health procedures, review of the terminal and its operations and logistics for the execution of excursions within the protocol.
Discussions are ongoing with several cruise partners that aim to see more vessels schedule their call into Port Castries in the near future.