OVER two thousand visitors arrived in Tobago on Monday morning aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas vessel – the second cruise ship call for the season.
Ground transport was one of the challenges experienced by visitors when the cruise ship docked at the Scarborough Port.
Speaking with Newsday, Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris said she was excited by the huge numbers subscribing to visit the island on the port calls.
“Yesterday I was excited. Today I am even more excited. We had a smaller vessel yesterday and today we see Rhapsody of the Seas making their first call to Tobago with over 2,500 passengers.”
She said she went aboard, went on a tour and spoke with the captain, who expressed his delight and pleasure at being able to call at Tobago, because he remembered visiting as a little boy.
“He’s from Sweden originally, and he visited back in 1991, so now he’s the captain of the ship and he’s happy to bring his passengers and his crew to experience what he experienced all those years (ago), which is Tobago’s charm, our beaches, our beautiful wildlife, our culture, our heritage, our food.”
Burris added: “I am just happy to see that we’ve finally fully opened (since the covid19 pandemic began). It is one thing to be able to begin to welcome airlift passengers, which we started doing in January, but this is the first time we’ve been able to welcome international passengers via sea. I’m just excited by the possibilities of us growing the sector once again and attracting more vessels of this size, certainly.”
She said big cruise ships do a lot for the island’s economy, giving the examples of busy taxi drivers and heavily subscribed tours on Monday morning.
She said Tobago had to sell its charms, and encourage visitors to return."We have to ensure that the experience of the visitor is one that would encourage them to keep coming back to Tobago.”
Vice president of Transmax Maxi Taxi Association Dave Alleyne also alluded to the oversubscribed tours.
“This morning, we actually see we ran out of transport.”
He said Argyle Waterfall, Charlotteville, Pigeon Point, Store Bay and Buccoo Reef were some of the most sought-after tours, and the drivers were excited to take visitors there as well.
“It’s approximately three years we didn’t get no business, so we are elated that we have this kind of business coming on. From yesterday, we feel good, we’re getting good business. We’ll be very glad if it continues like this, and we believe that once it continues so, we’ll be happier in Tobago where tourism is concerned.”
Identifying herself only as Beatrice, a Trinidadian living in Florida, said: “This is like my 12th cruise and my first for Tobago – I couldn’t miss it.
“I’m very impressed coming here, I’m very impressed. I love the welcome, I love the security. I feel safe, against all the odds that people are saying. But you know what? Welcome to Tobago, and let’s have fun.”
She said she had boarded the cruise in Barbados, and encouraged everyone to take a cruise and to try Tobago.
“Come take a cruise, come to Tobago, have fun, put some tourist money into Tobago – let’s do that.”
Shaquille and Jaleel Carter, both from Barbados, said it was their first time visiting the island.
“So we’re just looking around to see what's what. We’re looking forward to going to the Argyle Waterfall.”
Brad and Carmen Cipriani visiting from Canada, were eager to explore.
“We left four feet of snow behind, so we’re excited to be here. It’s our first time here and I’ll like to say my first impression is that its very clean compared to many ports. We’ve been on 15 cruises all over the world and we’re very happy so far.”
Brad added: “This is our first trip since the covid19 pandemic...We love it here. We’ve been to Barbados four times, but this is our first time being here. We’re testing it out and see if we’ll like to come back for a holiday.”
With a total of 42 vessels and a projected 64,000 passengers expected, the first cruise ship, Silver Moon, docked on Sunday with 1,040 passengers and crew, signalling the start of the island's 2022-2023 cruise ship season, which runs until April.