Residents are this morning waking up to the sights and sounds of a cruise ship, docked at the Road Town cruise pier - a sight that has become uncommon for the past nine months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas have been permitted to dock in keeping with a plan by the British Virgin Islands Ports Authority (BVIPA), to accept cruise ships for technical calls and warm lay-ups at its seaports.
Shortly after 8 a.m, Rhapsody of the Seas pulled alongside the pier and will be followed by the arrival of the sister ship sometime tomorrow.
The BVIPA has agreed on conditions to allow both ships to berth at the cruise pier under strict health and safety rules starting for an initial period of thirty days.
Acting Managing Director, Oleanvine Maynard noted that the vessel does not have any guests on board, and it will be berthing exclusively to lay up, refuel, take on provisions and spare parts.
Access to vessels from shore-based staff during stays is not permitted.
Patricia Romney, Director of Operations for Romasco Group, the agent for Royal Caribbean, said they are pleased to have two of its vessels calling in Tortola.
"We are grateful to the Virgin Islands Government for creating a path to assist our cruise partners during these critical times," Romney stated.
In a detailed presentation to the BVIPA, Royal Caribbean Group explained their hybrid connection plans and other details pertaining to the warm lay-up procedures.
Hernan Zini, the Vice President of Worldwide Operations for Royal Caribbean Group said that the Group is grateful and fortunate to have the government and people of the British Virgin Islands welcome their vessels during the pandemic for lay-up so that critical services can be provided.
"As we face this challenging time together, our first priority is the health and safety of the communities we visit and our crew members. We all look forward to the day when we can resume sailing and return with our guests to visit the beautiful destination and warm people of The Virgin Islands," Zini stated.
The economic benefits of extending technical calls or warm lay-ups include ships carrying out refueling, repairs, and start-up activities in the Territory before they set sail again.
In March 2020, the Government announced that it will halt cruise ship operations for an initial period of 30 days amid Coronovirus outbreak, citing the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring Covid-19 a pandemic.
The temporary cruise ship pause period started Saturday, March 14, 2020.
While ships could now dock, it could be many more months before cruise passengers are allowed to return to the island.