Plans are underway as the Government of Dominica through the Ministry of Tourism, International Transport and Maritime Initiatives prepares to safely welcome cruise ships back to Dominica shores.
Cruise tourism, like many other facets of the tourism sector, was severely impacted, by the COVID-19 pandemic as it brought the sector to a halt.
However, as Dominica continues to roll out a comprehensive vaccination programme, Prime Minister Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit has announced the return of cruise ships to the island.
Two ships are expected to come in June, while four are scheduled for July.
According to the Minister for Tourism, International Transport and Maritime Initiatives, Hon. Denise Charles the Government has started preparations to welcome cruise visitors with Dominica.
“Preparations are ongoing for the return of cruise to our shores. Cruise tourist can expect an enhanced landing, shopping and tour experience when they return in 2021. The development of a mini cruise village along the Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard, will create a Safe in Nature shopping zone for tourists. The intention is also to uplift the Old Market Square with modern stalls, a lively entertainment stage and an improved courtyard. We have assessed the most visited sites by cruise visitors and upliftment works will begin soon,” Hon. Charles stated.
Meanwhile Chief Executive Officer of the Dominica Air and Sea Port Authority, Mr. Benoit Bardouille explained that the decision to restart the cruise operations has met with a lot of discussion from the Ministry of Health and the various other agencies involved.
He explained that all the cruise ship passengers will undergo the same protocols as any other visitor when coming into Dominica.
“It is a process that will take place with a number of restrictions. One, the ships will be able to come with their passengers, only vaccinated passengers mark you, will be able to come ashore as well as the crew members of that vessel, who will also be vaccinated. The port at which the cruise will start will go through the necessary protocols of having them do the PCR tests within 72 hours. So all of the requirements by air, the passengers boarding that ship will have to do the same,” Mr. Bardouille stated.
He noted that authorities will be following the itineraries of any cruise ship docking into Dominica to ensure that they are following the relevant protocols.
“There has been discussions between ourselves and the various ports in which the itinerary of that vessel is going to ensure that right through the journey there are protocols established. And in our case in Dominica only passengers that have pre sold or organized tours will be able to go beyond the health check point, that will be established on the Roseau Cruise Ship Berth, and go on tours,” the DASPA CEO went on to state.
According to Mr. Bardouille specialized trainings will be held for all stakeholders involved with the cruise ship and passengers.
“We have the health check, there’s a security check point, there’s a tour dispatch area, a vendor safe area which will include areas like Lands for example and he areas will have booths, 10x10 booths, which will allow for easy access to the visitor. They have to go through specialized training to ensure that all of the sanitation and the other aspects that is necessary for their protection as well as for the safeguarding of the industry in terms of how they operate within that location,” he explained.
All bused scheduled to do the tours will be covid certified buses, and will have covid certified tour guides and bus drivers.
“If he is not vaccinated then he will have to be PCR tested every week; he will have to bear that cost himself; and he must have the results for him to be allowed within that area,” Bardouille noted.
The CEO DASPA explained that “we are going to create a safe zone where the passengers from the ship can operate within that safe zone and we are also creating a safe corridor to take the passenger from the port to the designated location,” adding that “they will be going to tour destinations that are covid certified. They will not be able to make any stops along the way that is not pre certified. So only persons that have pre sold tour passes will be able to go on the tour.”
Mr. Bardouille further stated that any person who is not vaccinated will not receive access to designated safe zone.
“Any person who is not vaccinated or who does not have a PCR test results will not be allowed within the port safe zones and that goes for every single person. it goes for the port authority staff, customs, immigration, any tour operator, tour agent, taxi operator, Discover Dominica, Ministry of Tourism,; any person wanting to do business with the cruise lines will have to subject to either being fully vaccinated or a PCR test every week, and they will not be allowed to enter the facility without that,” Mr. Bardouille added.