Even as the Guyana National Shipping Corporation (GNSC) on Wednesday- Christmas Day- welcomed its first cruise ship for the year, a company official said it is no longer feasible to build a custom-made reception area for cruise visitors.
“We have put it on the backburner for the time being,” GNSC’s Managing Director, Anthony Astwood told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com ).
The visitors’ reception area was expected to cost GUY$30 million four years ago.
He said the MV Island Sky was the first vessel to dock at the La Penitence wharf for 2013 compared to an average of three per year dating back to 2011. “Accommodating this vessel at our terminal shows our commitment towards enhancing the tourism industry in Guyana and more so cruise tourism,” GNSC said in a statement. GNSC said it is always delighted to be the terminal of choice for most cruise vessels that visit Guyana.
Operated by the United Kingdom-based tour company, Noble Caledonia, the Island Sky was expected to earn GNSC a maximum of GUY$500,000 in berthing and handling charges for the six-hour stop at the wharf. The vessel arrived here at about 7 AM and was scheduled to leave at 1 PM for Tobago. Officials said GNSC could have lost millions of dollars if priority docking had to be given to the cruise ship on a day when cargo ships were berthed.
Guyanese tour operator, Wilderness Explorer, was responsible for Island Sky’s visit to Guyana. GNSC was also the local agent for the last cruise vessel, National Geographic Explorer, which arrived here earlier this year.
Master of the Island Sky, Henrik Karlsson, said it was the first time the cruise ship was visiting Guyana. Its return would depend a lot on feedback from tourists but, according to him, the journey up the Demerara River and docking at the wharf were easy.
“First of all you check the port to see if you can go because of depth of water and if you can land the people in a safe way,” he told reporters. He acknowledged that Port Georgetown fitted his criteria of being good and safe. Karlsson praised the Transport and Harbours Department’s (T&HD) for escorting the cruise ship. “We had a very good pilot that piloted us into the river and so on because it’s always difficult when you come the first time into a port and checking the charts and hoping that everything is alright,” he said.
As passengers disembarked, thet were treated to live steel pan music, a Guyanese custom that visitors always appreciate.
Most of the 101 cruise visitors – mainly from the United Kingdom- attended Christmas Day Mass at the St. George’s Anglican Cathedral. They later visited a Steel Pan Museum.
The MV Island Sky’s previous stop was Paramaribo, Suriname. Its next port of call is Tobago before moving on to Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
National Geographic lists Guyana among the top 20 destinations to visit in 2014.