Premier Dr. Orlando Smith and Communications and Works Minister Mark Vanterpool were on hand yesterday morning to greet the first cruise ship to dock in the Virgin Islands since Hurricane Irma, along with its crew and approximately 2,000 passengers.

Mr. Vanterpool said that having the Marella Discovery here so soon after Irma was symbolic.

“It’s important to get the message out to the other ships that we are ready,” he said.

Captain Hugh Maynard greeted the ministers and representatives from the BVI Tourist Board onboard the ship.

“We’ve never seen the island so green,” he said. “We told the passengers we’d be the first ship in [since Irma]. [They] want to get out and explore.”

Smaller ship

Mr. Vanterpool said he actually preferred that the cruise season begin with a smaller ship like the Marella.

“I’d rather not have 5,000 passengers walking around here,” he said. “A smaller ship is a chance to test ourselves out.”

Meslyn Allan, marketing manager at the Tortola Pier Park, was helping greet and guide arriving passengers.

“The ministry has worked very hard putting together this route,” she said, adding that passengers would be routed through Belle Vue on their way to Long Bay, Beef Island, and that the ministry has been working to ensure a pleasant drive.

Visitors, she said, have been understanding.

“They know that we have had a hard time and know that whatever’s open is open,” she explained. “People want to be here supporting businesses, supporting the territory.”

Closed shops

British passengers Dave and Sally Morgan arrived with their two children.

“A lot of shops are closed around here, aren’t they?” Ms. Morgan observed as she strolled around the pier park.

She compared the VI to their last port of call, Philipsburg in St. Maarten, which was also heavily damaged by Irma. She said she thought the atmosphere there was more festive, with live music and dancers. In comparison, rain was falling when they exited on Tortola, and the atmosphere was more subdued.

“I heard a lot of people got off, walked around and went back to ship,” she said.

But her husband, a native of Mauritius, was impressed by the progress the territory had made, considering the extent of the damage.

“I’m from an island myself,” he said. “I know rebuilding is a long process. In 1975, we were hit by a hurricane. It took five years to completely rebuild, and we rebuilt better.”