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ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Mar 15, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government says it is prepared to hold talks with the Florida-based Carnival Cruise Lines amid a confusion here as to whether or not the company had cancelled several schedule calls to the island.
Earlier this week, Tourism and Investment Minister, Henry Charles “Max” Fernandez, in a statement, said he wanted to condemn “unequivocally a misleading and scare-mongering statement” made by the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association (ABCTA), Nathan Dundas, regarding the cancellation of the cruise ships.
Dundas had said that the cruise line did not give a reason for the cancellation adding “so all four ships booked commencing next season November 2019 to 2020 – Breeze, Magic, Legend and Pride will be going to other ports.
But Fernandez said that Dundas had failed to reveal in his statement that “normally Carnival Cruise Lines make only three or four calls to Antigua and Barbuda annually.
Now, Information Minister Melford Nicholas said the Gaston Browne administration was prepared to meet with the cruise line company at a mutually convenient location wither here or in the United States.
He said in the meantime, both parties have agreed to refrain from making any comments on the situation.
“We felt it necessary to engage them. Despite the hostilities we have continued to engage. We seem them as an important player. Their total brand and all of the ships that are under their control would constitute a significant portion of the existing passengers that come to Antigua under the existing protocol.
“So we do not consider them as being insignificant in the business. So we have continued to engage them. Accordingly based on a conversation that we had again yesterday at cabinet with senior officials we have both agreed to not only stay the hostilities but to have a meeting at a mutually agreeable point.
“It could be in Miami or it could be here in Antigua,” Nicholas added.
He said that Carnival Cruise Lines have been complaining about the ports here for decades but have failed to assist in any significant way.
“For years, we have received criticism from the cruise lines that there’s a problem in terms of even where some of our locals stakeholders interface with the cruise passengers…We have not been able to raise the incremental funds to be able to even rebuild the facilities to accommodate the taxi drivers in a way that will be consistent with …the expectations.
“We have not had any interventions by that same agent who has been aware of the problem for decades and who has benefitted substantially from the trade…,” he added.
Last month, the Antigua and Barbuda government defended its decision to enter into a multi–million dollar agreement with the London-based Global Ports Holdings (GPH) for the development of the cruise port in the capital.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that the US$83 million agreement with GPH would change the landscape of the island.
The GPH, established in 2004, GPH promotes itself on its website as the world’s largest cruise port operator with an established presence in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Asia-Pacific regions, including extensive commercial port operations in Turkey and Montenegro.