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Antigua welcomes Ariva, the largest ship to home port on the island

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After two years of dredging and planning and months spent getting the logistics just right, port authorities were on hand on Saturday morning to celebrate the arrival of Arvia Cruise Ship – the largest vessel to homeport in Antigua to date.

The Arvia is the latest ship added to P&O Cruise’s fleet. It is 344 metres long and weighs 185,581 gross tons.

Aboard the ship was about 4,500 passengers and more than 1,000 crew members including ship captain, Paul Browne.

“Historically, Antigua has been a tight little spot to come into but I’m delighted that all of the dredging work, all of the infrastructure that has happened over the last couple of years, has really paid off,” he told IPB.

The expectation is that Arvia will call three more times this cruise season.

“The ship is brand new so, we’ve only managed to squeeze in four calls but in future years we’ll be here every two weeks over the winter,” the captain added.

Darwin Telemaque, Chief Executive Officer at the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority said his team is happy to have been able to facilitate the entrance of the Arvia by expanding the channel.

The expansion has made it safer after and easier for large cruise ships to enter the 5th Pier terminal in St. John’s.

Arvia, he said, is 21 metres narrower and a few metres shorter than the Oasis Class ships.

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In the past, he said some vessels would have to abort coming into Antigua because of the narrow sea passage.

“There have been instances where some ships have flat out refused to come in,” he noted.

The Authority now looks forward to further expanding that channel to welcome Oasis Class Ships – the largest cruise ships in the world – in the near future.

“We also hope that with this one which is so similar that the owners of the Oasis Royal Caribbean might actually get some motivation, to actually want to try the Oasis based on what we’re doing,” he said.

Dona Regis Prosper, General Manager at the Antigua Cruise Port (ACP) said beginning on Monday, her team will carry out a post mortem evaluation on Arvia’s arrival.

“At the end of it, passenger safety, passenger comfort and passenger experience, are our key objectives with this operation,” she told IPB.

To facilitate the arrival of passengers aboard the ship, stakeholders like the Antigua & Barbuda Airport Authority had to be involved.

V. Euletta Francis, Chief Executive Officer at the Antigua & Barbuda Airport Authority said the airport had to ensure the seamless exchange of passengers leaving the cruise ship to head to the airport and vice-versa.

She said this has been a collaborative venture between Global Ports, the Antigua Cruise Port Authority (ACP), the Airport Authority, the Customs & Excise Division, the Immigration department and many other stakeholders.

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For the next six weeks, Ms. Francis said “every two weeks there’ll be one of this operation where there are three flights that will land at V.C. Bird with passengers and take back passengers”.

Meanwhile, Charles Fernandez, Minister of Tourism said vendors must now continue to identify ways to diversify their products to make it attractive to the thousands more passengers who will visit Antigua each year.

“Each of them don’t want to move from what they think is their biggest seller but we are still trying to speak to them.”

“My personal thing is to get more locally made products, whether its pepper sauce or handy craft created and sold. My interaction and experience tells me that visitors want to  get something really authentic,” he explained.

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