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KINGSTON, Jamaica; August 17, 2021: Tourism Minister, Hon Edmund Bartlett says safeguarding the health and safety of the citizens of Jamaica, as well as visitors, remains the top priority as the island welcomed the successful return of cruise operations yesterday (August 16).
Speaking following the visit of the Carnival Sunrise to the Ocho Rios Cruise Shipping Port, Minister Bartlett said he notes the concerns shared in the media about the restricted movement of the visitors who disembarked the vessel. However, Mr. Bartlett underscores that “this decision was taken after consultation with various stakeholders and most importantly, was done to ensure strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols instituted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other international partners for the safe return to cruise operations.”
He highlighted that due to the risks posed by COVID-19, steps were taken to manage the movement of cruise passengers, which means changes had to be made to the customary routine operations, in order to reduce risk. He noted that these changes were communicated to tourism stakeholders.
Scheduled visits were available for passengers to attractions certified by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) as being COVID-19 compliant and visitors were taken to these attractions by local contract carriage operators from Ocho Rios.
“In accordance with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines and international protocols for the safe return to cruise operations, a decision was made to include only attractions that were certified to be sold by Carnival Cruise lines with the exception that each contract carriage operator had to stop at one of the three craft markets namely: Ocho Rios, Pineapple and Old Market,” Minister Bartlett explained.
He noted that because of their size members of the Coconut Grove Market were allowed to participate in the port market to showcase their products at the Ocho Rios cruise port. The decision to stop at the craft markets, before going to the certified attractions, was approved by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, as well as the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
“Therefore no freelancing was allowed by ground transport operators or vendors due to strict COVID-19 protocols. This is in keeping with international guidelines and if we do not follow them then we put our citizens and visitors at risk and the cruise lines will not visit our destination,” the Minister added.
“As we continue our battle with COVID-19, we had to make a decision to have controlled movement, while ensuring that Jamaicans operating small, medium and large enterprises could enjoy the economic benefits from the return of cruise. We also met with a number of stakeholders including ground transportation operators and attractions, to ensure that they would be aware of the restrictions involved to ensure the safety of our people as well as our visitors,” Mr. Bartlett said.
Ahead of the arrival of the cruise ship on Monday, the Ministry of Tourism, represented by members of TPDCo and the Jamaica Vacations Ltd (JAMVAC), hosted a meeting with the management of the three leading contract carriage operators in the area, to sensitize them of the health and safety guidelines.
“We hosted a meeting on Thursday August 12th, with the presidents of the contract carriage companies and advised them of the guidelines and of the importance of them following the protocols. An agreement was made for them to meet and get back to the Ministry with a detailed list of the attractions each bus would transport the visitors to, the service price and the buses. This information was sent to us the following day,” said Executive Director of JAMVAC, Joy Roberts.
The controlled dispatch system was then implemented on Monday as planned and agreed on by all parties.
The 3,000 passengers and crew of Carnival Sunrise had to meet strict measures governing the restart of cruise shipping, requiring approximately 95% to be fully vaccinated and for all passengers to provide evidence of negative results from a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of sailing. In the case of unvaccinated passengers, such as children, a PCR test was mandated, and all passengers were also screened and tested (antigen) on disembarkation.
Also, the port of call has met protocols laid down by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the cruise companies, with TPDCo also monitoring conformity to the rules.