#TurksandCaicos, June 19, 2021 – The hope is that the crippling impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on the Travel and Tourism Industry is over. Another hope is that as cruising resumes, every worst case scenario played out in table top exercises would have given governments and industry leaders advance solutions for a safe resumption of the cruise industry.
“We have not been operating yet in the US. Our first ship will sail from the US, officially, in July. You may have heard of some ships operating in the Caribbean home porting out of Bahamas and St Martin, but no one is cruising as yet, out of the US,” said Marie McKenzie, Senior VP of Government Relationships at Carnival Corporation.
Carnival Cruise Line executives on Thursday evening, in speaking at a public meeting held in Grand Turk, gave assurances that the company has done well to build-in new safety protocols, with nearly a year and a half to re-calibrate.
“Not until recently, in late May, early June did the CDC really start working with us on the required protocols for us to operate,” explained Marie McKenzie.
“During those 17 months, we have been making changes on our ships in order to have the facilities that to not only test or identify Covid cases but also to quarantine and do contract tracing if necessary, so today our ships – and frankly, I can honestly say, the entire industry – has done a lot of work to prepare the ships to be able to operate in the event that there is a Covid case on board. For us to operate and never believe we will never have a Covid case is really not realistic; Covid is here to stay with us everyone.”
The Turks and Caicos Islands Government has also had to re-engineer what matters to visitors in terms of safety and what is necessary to keep the resident population out of Covid-19 danger. Turks and Caicos has managed to reach impressively low levels of infections and high levels of vaccine uptake.
Statistically, the TCI has recorded 2,423 cases of the coronavirus, with nine cases currently active in Providenciales only. The Ministry of Health informs, up to June 17, some 57 per cent of adults had received their first shot of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.
“One of my roles today, and I will be working with the Hon Saunders (Minister of Health) – your Ministry of Health team. We work with destinations to agree on what those protocols are for entry into your country. So before a ship shows up here in Grand Turk, I would have worked closely with your health teams to make sure that not only are we meeting the CDC requirements to operate but also the requirements of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
At this stage, only operating businesses in Grand Turk are outfitted for new public health requirements in a post-Covid world; hand sanitisers, temperature testers, physical distancing markers, log books and signs requiring face coverings. If these requirements continue in the final quarter of 2021, when the Government hopes cruising to Grand Turk will resume, then it means there is a vast body of work to be undertaken ahead of the ships’ return.
Mrs. Mckenzie explained that in her role as the liaison with the various Governments of Carnival cruise ports, she has already started having these meetings. Carnival, she said, has confidently communicated their standards.
“Your government has already asked us to share what we are doing for protocols on board our ships so they can review that and determine when it is safe for us to return. A ship is not just going to show up here, without addressing the realities of the world today, which is that we are living in a world with Covid.”
Mrs. McKenzie, in response to a pointed question, informed that no protocols have been set for Grand Turk vendors who will either be stationed at the Cruise Center or those who will engage in activities with guests; decisions of that nature are going to be made in tandem with Governments.
“It’s not a unilateral decision of Carnival; I can tell you the ones (destinations) we are visiting today we do not have a requirement that everyone that interacts with our guests must be vaccinated. However, some destinations, their government is requiring that whoever is working in tourism or interacting with guests visiting their islands must be vaccinated.”
The reply was met with applause of many who attended the public meeting, held at the Parade Grounds. Marie explained that Carnival Cruise Line, in all of its decisions is being guided by the science.
“The reason we made the decision on the ships (for vaccinations), what’s really driving that is one, the CDC requirement –which I shared is the regulatory body which dictates how we operate – but the second reason we are doing that, is most destinations in the Caribbean are requiring that we have ships arrive with fully vaccinated persons.”
The last time a cruise ship was docked at the Grand Turk Cruise Center was March 6, 2020; the Carnival Magic came in but no guests were permitted to come off.