Tue | Dec 7, 2021

Health ministry restricts locals, hotel guests from cruise passenger locales

Published:Tuesday | November 23, 2021 | 12:07 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer

Following a complaint from an unvaccinated Jamaican that she was not allowed to visit Island Village Shopping Centre in Ocho Rios while a cruise ship was in port, The Gleaner now understands that the issue not just affects Jamaicans, but also tourists in local hotels, and is a result of directives from the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW).

The management of Island Village was forced to issue a clarification last Wednesday, explaining that regulators have implemented protocols which do not allow the facility to open to the general public when a cruise ship is in port.

“Our regulators have implemented protocols which do not allow us to open to the general public when a cruise ship is in port,” a release from Island Village states. It added: “Island Village has been advocating to allow vaccinated individuals to visit on ship days. All are welcome to visit vaccinated or otherwise on non-cruise ship days.”

Island Village remains a popular destination for Jamaicans, as it houses several favourite spots such as Margaritaville, Cove Theatre and the recently opened Island Flats.

Subsequent checks by The Gleaner have revealed that other facilities along the resilient corridor, which stretches along Jamaica’s north coast, are similarly affected and stopover visitors in hotels are also barred from locations where cruise passengers are visiting.

A business operator at the Ocho Rios Fishing Village confirmed that a similar situation exists at that facility, stating that Jamaicans are not allowed to visit when cruise ships are in.

When contacted on Wednesday night, John Byles, chairman of the Tourism Resilient Corridors Committee, explained that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has been very careful not to allow cruise passengers and persons on land to mingle.

“I do know that the MOHW has been particularly careful with the cruise passengers, and so far we’ve not been able to bring both the visitors in the hotels and locals in, when the ship passengers are there,” Byles said.

But Byles is advocating a removal of such requirements, while maintaining the protocols.

“Whatever the requirements are, I would like to see a removal of that restriction whilst maintaining the management of the space, and so on. But it really is the MOHW that has to make the decision based on their review and their scientifically informed position,” he said.

A year and a half after the cruise industry was ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise ships started returning to Ocho Rios on August 16 with the arrival of the Carnival Sunrise. At the time, it brought about complaints from several players in the sector that only certain businesses were benefiting, a situation, others explained, was caused by the restrictions imposed by the MOHW.

Approximately 20 ships are scheduled to visit Ocho Rios from November 23 to the end of the year.