After three days of discussions and PowerPoint presentations to cruise industry decision-makers in South Florida, Antigua & Barbuda’s Minister of Tourism, Honorable Asot Michael is “very encouraged” about the future of his country’s cruise sector. The Minister’s optimism follows his recent visit to the South Florida (January 25 – 27) during which time he met with several cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL, MSC, Holland America, Seaborn, and Princess Cruises. The Minister and his team also received valuable feedback from the Operations Committee of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).
In commenting on his meetings, Minister Michael said, “The cruise executives and itinerary planners were impressed with our vision for improving how Antigua will be welcoming their ships and passengers, and their feedback has helped us to better understand their specific needs for achieving sustainable growth. I am confident that we have developed the right masterplan, and it is now up to our Government to find more financing to complete what we started last year when we successfully implemented critically needed marine improvements at St. John’s Harbour and the Heritage Pier.”
The Tourism Minister reported that very experienced cruise Industry leaders like Adam Goldstein, Rick Sasso, Robin Lindsay, Carlos Torres Navarro and Michele Paige were impressed with the fact that, although the Antiguan cruise-sector masterplan had already made significant implementation progress, the Minister and his team were still open to feedback and suggestions for improvement. The cruise decision-makers were particularly interested in the possibility of creating a new beach-focused, outer-island style of cruise destination on the sister island of Barbuda. According to the Minister, this piece of the masterplan is designed for Barbuda to deliver an authentic and unprecedented experience for an Eastern Caribbean cruise itinerary and to better position Barbuda on the regional cruise map.
Minister Michael was accompanied at his cruise industry meetings by his cruise-sector advisor, Ricky Skerritt, Tourism Authority Board member Mr. Nathan Dundas, Antigua & Barbuda Port Authority CEO Darwin Telemaque, and representatives of the BEA-Meridian design and construction team who are responsible for designing and constructing the masterplan.
In 2016, under the leadership of Minister Michael, the Antigua & Barbuda Government commenced an ambitious cruise facilities and downtown development program. To date, some US $50 Million has already been spent on the harbour and lengthening and strengthening the Heritage Pier to allow for the berthing of larger ships up to a Quantum-class size. The arrival of Royal Caribbean’s ‘Anthem of the Seas’ on December 2, 2016 heralded the start of what is expected to be a new growth phase for the Antiguan cruise sector. The Cruise-sector Masterplan calls for further dredging of the approach channel and turning area, the creation of a fifth berth, and land reclamation to help with major improvements to pedestrian and vehicle flows, town aesthetics, tour operations, and shopping.