Vendors, watersports, and some taxi drivers were extremely disappointed Thursday with the visit of the cruise vessel Viking Octantis as the expected sales and promises were not realized.
The tourism division and the tour operator had invited vendors to set up near the entrance to the port terminal and along Marine Village in the hopes that passengers from the vessel would walk by and purchase their souvenirs. However, they said that very few people stopped by, and most did not make any sales after being at the port since 7:30AM until they packed up after 3PM.
“They said this time would be different, but nothing has changed,” said Vendor Amelda Buffonge told Discover Montserrat.
Only five vendors took up the challenge of setting up a booth and most spent the day watching passengers walk by.
“They put them straight on a bus and they drove off,” Buffonge explained.
Shane Caesar, who offers boat tours and assists with kayaking and other watersports at Scuba Montserrat spent much of his day watching the boats speed by in Little Bay and people on kayaks. But neither the boats nor the kayaks were locally owned.
“We had 28 people booked to do kayaking tours with us,” Emmy Aston of Scuba Montserrat said. “But last night all of them were cancelled. Even those who booked individually with us eventually cancelled their tours.”
Roselyn Cassell-Sealy, the owner of Travel World, which arranged the cruise line’s visit, said that she was unaware that there were kayaks from the cruise ship in the water until Scuba Montserrat alerted her.
When she checked with the ship’s product manager, Cassell-Sealy was told the trips would have to be cancelled as her company insurance did not cover the high risks of kayaking.
She disagreed that kayaking was high risk, but ship officials did not budge. The operator said it was disappointing and that it needed to be rectified.
The Octantis is a high-end cruise line offering expedition tours of off-the-beaten-path destinations. Its website describes the tours and shows that many of the offers on the itinerary are to be delivered by their own machinery, which includes submarines, zodiac speed boats and kayaks.
Cassell-Sealy said 318 people booked tours of the island with her company. There were tours to the Lost City of Plymouth, hiking with Scriber and others also went to Aunt V’s Caribbean Candies Class.
The operator said the experience for those on the tours was positive.
She explained that the taxis and buses used are part of a team which are trained and certified to handle tours at the level she knows her clients want.
“Several of the cruise lines that we are working with are now asking us to increase our tour insurance from two to four million US. That is not easy for small operators, and we are working to resolve the issue for future cruise visits,” the tour operator shared.
A travel insider on neighbouring Antigua & Barbuda said that several cruise lines have made similar requests to tour operators there, which has resulted in them closing their business as they cannot afford the high premiums associated with doubling their insurance coverage.