Disney ship triggers gradual cruise return

Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan among officials hosting the Disney Magic on Monday (photo from social media)

(CNS): Premier Wayne Panton said the return of cruise ships reflects the government’s “balanced and pragmatic approach” to the plan to gradually reopen tourism and a “conservative reintroduction” of ships.

While only 2,500 passengers arrived Monday on the Disney magicon April 6, as many as 11,500 passengers will call at George Town on three ships, at a time when many beach spots that once welcomed cruise passengers have closed and before all operators resume operations.

Speaking at Friday’s press conference, the Prime Minister said he expected a “good start” to this milestone and “everyone is going to have a great time”. He said the return of cruise ships represented real change and would allow people to start earning a living again.

But two years after the last cruise ship was turned away and borders closed, it’s not clear that Grand Cayman is ready for the return of significant numbers of passengers and there are indications that du time has been wasted to prepare the country for this moment.

These include the George Town manager’s decision to start work on pedestrianizing Cardinal Avenue just as the cruisers return, and the fact that many operators are struggling to prepare their businesses, such as getting insurance. more and more expensive civil liability.

Additionally, the Cayman Islands review process future cruise policy just started with the recent call for proposals, almost a year after the parliamentary elections, when it was a major campaign issue.

The government last week voted an additional C$5 million to help small tourism operators get boats, buses and other equipment repaired or replaced and get back on track. But the Prime Minister had no answer to the likely problem of overcrowding, even with fewer cruise tourists, given the lack of space on the beach for all visitors not staying in beachfront hotels.

There doesn’t seem to be an answer to the question of where cruise passengers who aren’t on paid excursions will spend their time as numbers grow, given recent indications from several Seven Mile Beach resorts that they limit their service, especially on the beach, to guests staying at the facilities.

There has also been a significant reduction in beach space due to erosion, and popular spots such as Calico Jacks and Royal Palms are now closed.

The Prime Minister said he hoped companies that historically dealt with cruise tourism in the past would offer their services again. “It won’t be a full return and we won’t have 100% of the business up and running at the right time,” he said, adding that he thought that would be enough.

Panton said the recent decision to seek consultants to help shape the new cruise policy was to try to reduce numbers while generating more revenue from ships that come.

Blaming the delay on the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated government business, he said the policy was to move away from mass cruise tourism and that the government had already had “very strong discussions” on obtaining more valuable cruise business for Caymanian Operators.

“We are very optimistic that we can build a more robust cruise strategy…and transform what was originally a mass tourism, lower value approach to a more moderate volume but much higher value approach. high for the country.”

In the meantime, Panton said, the gradual return of cruise tourism would help those in the tourism sector who have been hardest hit by the closure of the port of George Town to ships and facilitate the “new normal” of tourism.

He added that the government would closely monitor security aspects, although there are still concerns about cruise tourism.

Responding to concerns that cruise tourists could cause a new wave of infections, given the industry‘s direct association with the spread of COVID-19 in our region, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Autilia Newton said said the aim was to ensure passengers and crew who disembark do not show symptoms and are not close contacts of the cases.

All crew members and passengers, with the exception of children under the age of twelve, must be fully immunized and they must adhere to mask mandates and social distancing protocols while ashore. Ships are also required to provide the port authority with a passenger health report before anyone is allowed to disembark.

This includes information relating to persons on board who suffer from an illness or who have suffered from an illness during the voyage. The ship remains in quarantine until the officer on duty has given the ship permission to communicate with shore.

No COVID-positive passengers or crew, or close contact of positive passengers or crew are permitted to disembark and all legal obligations under international maritime law will be met. The prevalence of COVID-19 detected on board a cruise ship will be assessed by reviewing evidence of sustained transmission on board, the timeline of infections, and the measures taken on board to control the spread of cases.

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See the full press briefing on CIGTV below:

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