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More freedom for cruise ship passengers

More freedom for cruise ship passengers
Carlos James, minister of Tourism speaking at a press conference on Tuesday

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New cruise protocols in St Vincent and the Grenadines will see passengers being allowed to disembark and visit sites across the country freely, with limited restrictions. 

This is one of two changes to the cruise protocols, which became effective as of Monday, December 6. 

“We will continue to have our bubble tours and if it is that the cruise lines are opting for a bubble tour, we will facilitate that, but we are providing an additional option,” Minister of Tourism Carlos James said this week.

“In fact, some of the cruise lines requested it and we have put in place a second option where a particular cruise line may want to opt for a non -bubble tour, which means that the passengers who are coming can disembark freely and visit sites across St Vincent and the Grenadines with limited restrictions and where they can go and interact,” James said on Tuesday during a press conference. 

The cruise season in SVG officially began in November with the introduction of ‘bubble tours’; tours pre-packaged by local tour operators and pre-booked by the passengers at selected sites across the State. 

Tour operators; both land and sea are expected to operate at a 75 per cent capacity and they too must be fully vaccinated. 

Under this new protocol where passengers are allowed to disembark freely, the protocols remain the same in relation to physical distancing, sanitising and temperature checks. 

James said an additional measure was added for those who opt for ‘non-bubble tours’, in that “every passenger disembarking the vessel must do a rapid antigen [test] at least the same day or 24 hours prior to disembarking”. 

“…So it’s not a case where persons are going to disembark and we don’t know their status. First they board the vessel with a rapid antigen if your home port is from the US; or a PCR if your home port is from another destination, and within 24 hours of disembarking St Vincent and the Grenadines, they also have to comply with another rapid antigen test before disembarking the vessels,” he said. 

The tourism minister added that a similar operation is currently in place at the airport for passengers arriving by air, particularly during a time when most passengers travelling to this destination are fully vaccinated. 

He also expressed belief that the new measure will help provide more jobs for local taxi operators who may want to take cruise passengers to locations and sites that are not necessarily a part of local agents’ bookings. 

“…They will be able to do that, provided that the taxi operators, they themselves put together an operational plan in terms of where they’re taking their guests so we can monitor where they’re taking them and in the event of contact tracing, we know where passengers have visited…and where we can ensure safety of both locals and persons coming by way of ship,” James said. 

The second new cruise protocol which became operational on December 6 will see SVG now accept cruise passengers travelling with a rapid antigen test result if the home port from which they are coming uses a rapid antigen test for exit screening.

The tourism minister explained that this change was mainly to accommodate passengers on cruise ships coming from ports in the United States of America. 

“I just want to state that the use of PCR continues for other passengers where the home port requires a PCR. This does not apply to passengers travelling by air, but specifically if a home port requirement is that a rapid antigen [satisfies] the requirement for boarding the vessel, St Vincent and the Grenadines — the CMO has worked with her team, has worked with us to amend the protocols to accept a rapid antigen from cruise passengers travelling from home ports that will accept a rapid antigen for boarding the vessel,” James said.