Jamaica Observer: MONTEGO BAY, St James — After a more than 16-month hiatus because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, cruise ships are expected to resume calling on Jamaica next Monday.

In fact, between Monday, August 16 and Tuesday, October 26, cruise ports in Falmouth, Trelawny; Ocho Rios, St Ann; and Montego Bay, St James are expected to welcome a combined total of 25 calls from Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International and MSC Cruises.

In preparation for Monday’s cruise call on Ocho Rios, teams from the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Health and Wellness, and the Port Authority of Jamaica will visit the Ocho Rios port tomorrow to sensitise stakeholders, particularly about the importance of taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Cruise shipping is an integral part of our tourism product and an important driver in terms of visitor arrivals and expenditure. Thousands of Jamaicans depend on the cruise shipping industry, and we look forward to its return,” Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said in a recent release.

“Tourism workers must always remember that they are valuable front line workers who have a critical role to play in restoring the national economy and their own state of well-being. They must therefore play their part in helping to overcome the current setback created by the COVID-19 pandemic by taking the vaccine,” Bartlett added.

Chukka Adventures’ CEO John Byles welcomed the return of cruise shipping to Jamaican shores.

“I think it is a welcome move. It touches a wide base of stakeholders, such as the craft markets, the bus drivers, and so many more,” said Byles, who is also chairman of the Tourism Resilient Corridors Committee.

“The good thing is that you have the entire tourism infrastructure for monitoring and managing the Tourism Resilient Corridor. It doesn’t require any additional resources, it has available space. We have 40 to 50 per cent of transportation still available; in the attractions they have more than sufficient space as well. So it really is a welcome shot in the arm, so to speak,” added Byles.

President of the All-Island Craft Traders and Producers Association, Melody Haughton, was overjoyed.

“Hip hip hooray!” Haughton exclaimed. “I am happy to know that the cruise sector is finally reopening.”

The global cruise industry has cautiously resumed voyages with new rules and guidelines to ensure safe sailing.

A total of 190 cruise ships, representing 65 different brands, are expected to take to the seas in August, with an average of approximately 1,500 guests each.

Bartlett said that under the new guidelines almost every cruise passenger and crew will be required to be fully vaccinated.

The tourism minister noted that with several countries lifting their ban on cruise shipping and cruise lines anxious to recover lost ground, it is the ports of call which meet the strict health and safety protocols that will be first in line to receive vessels.

As a result, he said it is important that workers within the sector, particularly those who have been displaced since the 16-month absence of vessels from the seas, do the right thing “for self and country”.

Bartlett noted that Jamaica has been credited for its proactive approach in developing protocols for the tourism industry as well as the resilient corridors and these have enabled the reopening of the tourism sector with a COVID-19 positivity rate of less than 1.0 per cent.

“It is now time for the cruise sub-sector to also play its part as we follow a strategic path in reimagining the tourism sector to rebuild faster, stronger, and better,” he stressed.