No Rush For Return Of Cruise Ships—Vanterpool; Cites Safety Of Tourists

Melissa Edwards, Senior Journalist | November 13, 2017 6:17 am MST
Photo Credit: Facebook
The government was in no rush to welcome back cruise ships to the BVI's shores following the devastation of Hurricane Irma, according to Hon. Mark Vanterpool, Minister of Communications and Works.

He told BVI Platinum News that the focus since September 6 has been on restoration and safety, including the conditions of the roads and fallen poles, among other issues.

However, the Minister said they will be in a ready state by next month to accept smaller ships, and then in January/February 2018 to welcome the larger ones.

Cruise ships have began making calls to neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands, two months after hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated that island. The USVI government has been racing to restore the territory's top tourist sites and other restoration efforts to convince cruise lines of their readiness.

Minister Vanterpool was asked what the USVI did different, that the BVI has not done.

“I don’t know whether they (USVI) were hit badly as us or not, but we made a decision that when the cruise ships come back we want to be properly prepared and ready, and therefore, we did the major clean up, we did a lot of other work,” he said.

The Minister added, “We want to make sure that the electricity poles are off the road from leaning; want to make sure the lines are up; we want to make sure that the roads are safe first of all, and so we decided that we were not rushing to make the ships come back.”

Minister Vanterpool stated that government simply wanted to give it more time.

“And we are pleased that we made that decision, but in December there will be a few smaller ones (ships) and in January we hope to get the bigger ships coming back.”

He mentioned that the taxi operators were badly hit by the category 5 hurricane, and they too are taking some time to be ready.

“We want to make sure that they are ready also.”

Meanwhile, the Works Minister said that following his recent meeting with cruise line officials in Mexico, it is clear that they are anxious to return.

“We told them that we would be ready for December, but they would want to have more time, notice than that, about 90 days to inform their guests that we are ready…With a view that their ships will come in January or February,” he indicated.

He assured that the Territory is full speed ahead preparing for the cruise lines.

“…Cleaning up more; getting more of the beaches ready; the concession stands that we need to get ready for them.”

He also touched on the roads.

“We are going to spend the next month or six weeks preparing the roads better so that when they begin to come mid December or early January, we can be ready for the cruise ships.”

Ready To Visit

MSC Cruises President, Ricard Sasso, said that they are ready to make calls to the BVI.

He said that they have already made plans prior to the hurricane to visit next year and this has not changed.

“We have a fondness for the BVI and certainly all the people that have engaged with us, and we have a chance to bring more ships here over the years. We plan five and ten years in advance of course, so we certainly have Tortola and the BVI right in the centre,” he told BVI Platinum News last week during a visit to the Territory.

Sasso said that they are hopeful of making more calls to the BVI in the future.

“Our ships will be calling here next year as they have the past year, but we want to try and find ways to add more calls because the tourists love the BVI, they love Tortola and Virgin Gorda.”

He added, “So, I think it is important for us to make sure that we have an opportunity to bring the ships here as often as we can…We only had two ships on occasional calls here.”
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