Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) resumed port calls to Harvest Caye in Southern Belize today. The Norwegian Gem arrived in Belize with 1,262 passengers and 1,067 crew onboard. Tourists disembarked on a 75-acre Harvest Caye, NCL’s resort-style island destination that features plenty of facilities and activities including a massive swimming pool; zip lining and a Blue Morpho butterfly. The BTB’s Director Quality Management and Capacity Development, Abil Castaneda says this is an important milestone for Belize’s cruise industry.
Abil Castaneda, Director, Quality Management & Capacity Development, BTB: “It’s going very well. The ship is actually working at 60% capacity obviously because of the COVID protocols the NCL company is very stringent in terms of their protocols so they have indicated that they will be easing in their capacities as the whole pandemic progresses. But today we have docked in Harvest Caye the Norwegian Gem ship. It currently has about 1,267 passengers so that’s around 60% of what it could do and then it also has 1,067 crew members. All of them have their full vaccination and there’s no positive cases on the ship so we’re all very glad with the protocols that have been put in place all the way from the start of the cruise to where we are in Belize.”
Reporter: How would you describe the atmosphere there at Harvest Caye ?
Abil Castaneda, Director, Quality Management & Capacity Development, BTB: “Well I think it’s first of all very exciting. I think a lot of the Belizean workers are so happy to be able to get back to work. We have been talking with the guests here we have been meet and greeting them, giving them some more information on what else to do in Belize and the guests are very happy to be able to get back cruising, to be able to visit new destinations. A lot of them it’s their first time here to Belize so I must say it has been so far a very successful day. We’ve had some tours that have gone on the mainland which are the usual booked tours so I’m sure those are also going fairly well so I think it is a very positive day today and we look forward to be able to continue to build back the sector in the south.”
Reporter: Okay so good news for all those small entrepreneurs there on the island.
Abil Castaneda, Director, Quality Management & Capacity Development, BTB: “Correct, we have quite a few Belizean owned businesses here they’re fully gold standard by the BTB and they’re also doing their business operations and going quite well.”
In addition to Belize, Norwegian Gem’s itinerary includes calls at Roatan, Honduras; Costa Maya, and Cozumel, Mexico. Castaneda says the Government and its partners, through the Cruise Tourism Task Force, have developed health and safety protocols that assure the safe restart of cruising to Belize.
Abil Casteneda, Director, Quality Management & Capacity Development, BTB: “We put together some national protocols for the restart of our cruise and these protocols including things like ensuring that there’s proper sanitization, ensuring that there is a certain level of vaccination that must be on the ship etc. And so that is one thing we have from a local level but the ships also come with their own protocols and in the case of NCL their protocols are even beyond what we currently have in our own protocols because as I said they have decided to take a more cautious option in the restart. So for instance they have rule that to come on their ship you need to present a negative rapid test for instance to be able to board the ship as a cruise tourist you need to be able to be a hundred percent vaccinated within the last two weeks. If you don’t present those two things they don’t allow you onboard. And so they have done a lot from their end to ensure that the ship is sterile, that their island is sterile. The ships for Norwegian will continue every two weeks for now and then gradually as we get to the end of the year we’ll start to see more than two ships coming in for the month.”