I trust all members of the government’s tourism delegation returned safely from the Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Miami. I wonder what positive progress they will report?

But exactly what do we have to sell to the cruising industry? We have beaches and The Baths, but the roads to get to them are terrible.

A few years ago, the government signed preferential berthing agreements with Disney and Norwegian cruise lines. Other cruise lines could only use the main pier when those two didn’t want it, and they had to negotiate, presumably at a cost. As a result, Royal Caribbean and Carnival refused for a period to put the Virgin Islands on their itineraries. Is this agreement still in effect?



What more can we sell? The number of large ships we can accommodate in Road Town is presently limited to two on the pier and no more than two in the harbour. Large ships are unlikely to anchor off the out islands and use tenders, and their onshore facilities are inadequate anyway. We can probably offer offshore facilities to more small ships, but that appears to be it. Can Road Town facilitate a second pier?

Cruise companies plan their itineraries years in advance, but they will quickly drop a port if any problems occur.

Someone suggests we might supply electric power to ships. How on earth can we do that when our grid is barely hanging on trying to keep the islands lights on? Do we think we can persuade the cruise lines to pay to upgrade our systems?

Most other ports in the Caribbean have much more to offer the tourist than we do, and they are probably thinking how they can enhance their own offerings.


‘Turn-around port’

There was once talk of us becoming a turn-around port, with passengers joining and leaving ships here. But with our lack of airlift, accommodations, transport and roads, this a non-starter. Remember the near chaos when the Queen Mary 2 had to fly in and out some 400 crew? Imagine if it were some 8,000 coming and going! I think the only terminal ports in the Caribbean are San Juan and Barbados.

So I doubt our cruise ship industry will advance much further than it has already, which is fine. However big we become, we still have to cope with the dead off-season.

I would think a delegation of two to four is plenty to send to the annual Seatrade jamboree (or jolly) in future.