(Antigua Sun) – Minister of Tourism John Maginley, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas and Director of the Antigua Pier Group (APG) Conrad Pole are expected to meet representatives from Carnival Cruise Line today in Miami, Florida.
This is following the recent announcement by the cruise line to pull one of its ships, the Carnival Victory from Antigua come January 2010.
A press release from the Ministry of Tourism stated that on Monday, Maginley met the executive members of the cruise association who sought his audience seeking to air their views on the development. At that meeting, Dundas informed the gathering that the main reason given in written correspondence for the action of the cruise line is a need to support St Maarten because of recent infrastructural adjustments made to accommodate their vessels, as well as a need to diversify its itinerary.
“Argumentatively, Antigua has done much infrastructural adjustments, and there have been no preceding complaints concerning product delivery in Antigua that would prompt such rapid action, on behalf of the cruise line whose itineraries are published in advance,” the press release stated.
The release further stated that the general belief, however, is that the cruise ship’s pull out is directly linked to the recent legal situation which arose as a result of a dispute between a local taxi driver and the six cruise passengers, which ended in a brawl at the police station. “The case is currently before the local judiciary and it is the hope of tourism stakeholders that a swift and convivial judgment will bring an end to this latest saga that has placed Antigua and Barbuda’s Tourism Industry into disarray.”
Maginley, who is attending the Americas Conference, told the Miami Herald newspaper that before the cancellation, he had been speaking to Carnival about increasing the number of cruise ships visiting Antigua. He was told that it takes 18 months to two years to make such a decision.
The tourism minister said the decision not only means a loss of almost 150,000 passengers but also what is to prevent Carnival from cancelling its other ships.
“The difficulty for us as a government is this: We built a new port that we have to pay for so that we can take in these boats and part of the long-term plan is the commitment from cruise lines to come and do something,” he said.
“If they pull out without any conversation, what do I tell the people who are financing the dock? It puts us in jeopardy.” The cruise line has, however, stated that the decision has nothing to do with the matter involving the six tourists. According to the company it had been contemplating moving the ship away from Antigua for quite some time. “We have not modified this Southern Caribbean itinerary in the past four years and had a desire to incorporate a new port of call,” the cruise line said.
“At the same time, St Maarten holds very strong appeal from a tourism standpoint and we have made a commitment to St Maarten to support the extensive port and infrastructure development currently underway there.”
Carnival notes Antigua will remain on the itinerary of the eight-night Southern Caribbean cruises it offers on another ship, the Carnival Freedom, out of Ft. Lauderdale. The Freedom sails the itinerary every fourth week – or 13 times a year. Still, the net effect of the change is to reduce Carnival’s arrivals in Antigua by 80 per cent.