BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Monday November 15, 2010 – The robbery of a bus load of tourists in St Kitts and Nevis has prompted two cruise ships to cancel calls to the twin-island federation for the rest of the week.
Carnival Miracle will instead sail into Antigua tomorrow, followed by the Grand Princess on Wednesday.
The decision, which is a heavy blow to the cruise sector in St Kitts and Nevis, came a day after 17 visitors, who sailed into the island on the Celebrity Mercury, were robbed by two men at gunpoint as their tour bus began the trek up Brimstone Hill, a World Heritage Site.
According to reports, it was just after 1 o’clock in the afternoon when driver Urban Herbert got out of the vehicle, to remove a tree branch that was across the road, when someone threw a rock at the bus’ windshield. Two armed, masked men reportedly then rushed from the bushes and boarded the bus, demanding cash.
They got away with money, jewelry, cell phones and other personal items. A child was among those on the bus. None of the visitors were physically harmed in the incident.
The cruise lines’ cancellations were confirmed this evening by Denzil Crook, Managing Director of Delisle Walwyn & Co. Ltd. – the agent for Carnival, Princess and Celebrity cruise lines – on a local radio station, Winn FM.
“Earlier this evening, the executives from Princess Cruise Lines called to indicate that they were going to cancel their call of the Grand Princess on Wednesday.
Obviously I sought to find out the reasons for this cancellation and very quickly they told me that it related to the incident that took place,” he said.
“Not long after, I had a call from an executive of the Carnival Cruise Lines, who earlier had sought to cancel all tours to Brimstone Hill, and on this second call confirmed that the Carnival Miracle would not be calling tomorrow.”
Officials hope for no further fallout
So far, it is only the calls for this week that have been cancelled.
Crook confirmed that Celebrity Cruises continues to plan future calls.
He told the radio station that he sought to assure the Carnival executive that what had happened was “an aberration” and everything was being done to ensure it did not recur.
“It is my hope that because of the confidence that has existed and the relationship developed between our company, as agents, and the cruise lines that this would carry some weight,” Crook said.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Joseph Liburd said lawmen were moving quickly to try to bring the culprits to justice.
“The entire police organization is working as speedily as we could, we are trying as much as we could, we are putting all the bits and pieces together and working on the intelligence we have,” he said.
Liburd said that despite the incident, St Kitts and Nevis is a safe place to visit and tourists should not allow this to prevent them from travelling there.
Although Antigua and Barbuda will see additionals ship sailing into its port as a result of what happened in St Kitts, tourism officials there are not revelling in the fallout being experienced by their Eastern Caribbean neighbours.
Tourism Minister John Maginley and President of the Antigua & Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas said they were sorry to hear about what had happened.
“Anytime something like that happens in any of the islands it affects all of us,” Maginley said, adding that his “heart goes out” to St Kitts Tourism Minister Richard Skerrit who was just in London attending the World Trade Market working hard to attract tourists to his country.
Dundas added that the situation should be a wake-up call for authorities in Antigua and Barbuad. He suggested that harsher penalties be placed on the books for persons found guilty of involvement in such crimes.
He also urged authorities to increase monitoring at tourist sites across the island, including beaches and tourist attractions.
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