cruise ship
In February 2020, a cruise ship was turned away from Tortola after officials learned that passengers aboard the ship were ill and not yet tested for the coronavirus. (File photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)

Cruise ships are scheduled to start arriving in the territory next month, but a plan to put their cruise ship passengers in a “bubble” in the era of Covid19 was still not finalised as of last Thursday, Premier Andrew Fahie said in the House of Assembly.

The Celebrity Millennium is scheduled to dock in Tortola on June 14 as the first cruise ship arrival in the territory in more than a year, according to CrewCenter.com.

The BVI Ports Authority announced in March that cruise ships would return in June, with passengers — all of whom will be fully vaccinated
against Covid-19 — in a “bubble” to prevent them from interacting with residents.

But to date officials have not explained exactly what that process entails.

“Considering the current coronavirus pandemic and government efforts to protect the community, the BVI Ports Authority is developing a draft Covid-19 management plan detailing requirements to receive cruise ships,” Mr. Fahie said in response to a question from Opposition Leader Marlon Penn last Thursday in the HOA. “The content of this plan will consider recommendations from cruise lines, who are part of the ongoing discussion, as well as other Caribbean guidelines that have been developed for a safe resumption of cruise ship operations within the region.”

The Ministry of Health, the BVI Tourist Board, Her Majesty’s Customs, the Immigration Department, and the private sector, including local cruise agents and tour operators, are collaborating on the plan, according to the premier.

The new protocols, which he did not specifically detail, will “replace all normal operating procedures” for the time being, he said.

The basic framework of the plan has been agreed already, and stakeholders only need to “hammer out all the other details,” he said last
Thursday, adding that the plan will be shared with the HOA once it is approved by Cabinet.

Concerns

The premier explained that government is “working on a bubble area, and very shortly all that information will be made clear to the public.”

However, Mr. Penn stressed that tour operators, vendors and others who depend on cruise tourism are concerned about the protocols’ requirements and want to know whether they will be part of the “bubble” system.

“They don’t know what protocols to adhere to and we’re two weeks away from the arrival date,” Mr. Penn said. “Are these tourists to operate within a bubble system? Is that what the government’s contemplating? Are they able to roam freely to all the different locations they’ve been used to roaming, go on excursions, etcetera?”

The premier did not directly answer Mr. Penn’s question about whether passengers will be allowed to patronise businesses in Cane Garden Bay, Long Bay on Beef Island, and Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park.

“It is important to mention that in this first phase of the resumption of cruise tourism, cruise lines are proposing that cruise passenger guests will not be permitted to independently arrange tours or freely move about the territory,” Mr. Fahie said. “The details of the tours are still being
defined by the cruise operators in collaboration with the BVI Tourist Board and the cruise lines, and the overall protocols for such are currently being developed via our cruise protocols stakeholders.”


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