The cruise ship season in Seychelles will reopen after an 18-month hiatus with the arrival of Le Bellot from le Ponant group on 18 November, a top official said on Thursday.
The last cruise ship to visit Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, was in March last year before a temporary closure was announced by the government to protect the population from the threat of the COVID-19 virus.
“We were always worried initially about cruise ships because could we handle 700 serious cases at once. And of course, that could be something that could overwhelm our facilities,” the Principal Secretary for Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Alan Renaud, told a press conference.
New procedures on how to accommodate the return of the vessels in the Seychelles amid the COVID-19 pandemic have been put in place and Renaud said local authorities “are comfortable in the sense that we are ready and prepared and that we have all the contingencies in place to welcome cruise ships.”
Upon arrival in Seychelles’ waters, the ships have to produce proof of their procedures of how they handle COVID cases, their risk assessment and the number of passengers.
Cruise ships are also expected to have facilities to regularly test their clients for COVID-19.
The Seychellois authorities have also made available a portal on which vessels will fill in their details before entering Port Victoria.
One procedures will be that passengers will fly into Seychelles and then be transported to their cruise ship.
They will then spend seven days at sea visiting various islands before they return to shore and another group goes. Islands they will have the chance to visit include Praslin, La Digue and Curieuse.
In all, cruise ships are expected to make 19 port calls in Port Victoria during this season, bringing in an estimated 5,700 passengers.
The chief executive of the Seychelles Ports Authority, Ronny Brutus, said that “this time around the ships are smaller, as they are high-end cruise lines. They will only be able to accommodate a maximum of 300 passengers at a time. The biggest vessel we have on the list is MS Europa 2 measuring 225 metres.”
He added that that right it is not safe for cruise ships like Costa to pay a call to Port Victoria and that the authorities are “working to find others in the group that can make the trip in a safe manner that will not add on to the spread of the virus.”
While the season officially takes off next week, the head of Destination Planning and Development in the Tourism Department, Bernadette Willemin, said work is ongoing to bring in more visitors through cruise ships.
“We are sending a message to the outside world to let them know that Seychelles is ready as a cruise ship destination and that we are doing it in a safe manner and protecting our population at the same time. This is just as a start,” she said.