It was a mixture of pleasure and cautious optimism as the territory welcomed two cruise vessels this week following a three-month lull as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.
A pleasure for many taxi operators who stopped just short of likening the arrival of the Marella Discovery and Marella Celebration Valletta vessels as some much-needed desert rain.
“Before the cruise ships, it ain’t had nothing, nothing at all. This is the first, and yesterday, after three months, it had a ship. Yesterday was beautiful, it was exciting, the people were excited to see this beautiful island,” said Yanky ‘Uncle’ Bato.
When BVI News Online caught up with him he had just received a full load of tourists to embark on an island tour.
Our news site also caught up with a newbie taxi operator, Jason Blyden of Island Excursions.
“This is my first day. I am hoping that things will pick up and everything will be nice and positive; and that the tourists will enjoy themselves while they are here and not be discouraged in any way,” he said.
However president of the Virgin Islands Transportation Alliance Corporation, Reese Penn was not so pleased.
He argued that the territory was not yet in a position to welcome cruise passengers largely because of bad roads and the large number of unusable beaches.
“Right now it appears that it’s only one direction the tourists are going and that’s the eastern end of the island. I don’t think we are fully ready to open the island to the regular tourism product from the cruising industry because a lot of the beaches are not serviceable, a lot of the roads are not serviceable or user-friendly. They are more dangerous than anything else…it’s going to be a long road back,” said Penn.
He added: “Realistically, as long as the roads are not serviceable I don’t think we will be going certain directions. We will only be going the directions that are safe for our customers,” he said.
Penn indicated however that he was happy that taxi operators are now able to generate some much-needed funds with the arrival of the two vessels.
“It’s always a benefit to taxi drivers, the season actually is the bread and butter for them. Now that the ships have started to come it will draw their attention.”
Some 2,800 cruise passengers combined disembarked the two cruise ships which docked at the Tortola Pier Park on Wednesday and Thursday.
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