The Miami Herald
Posted on Wed, Sep. 30, 2009
Carnival's plan to switch port of call upsets Antigua
By JACQUELINE CHARLES
John Maginley, who is attending the Americas Conference, said he only learned last week via e-mail that Carnival would no longer be anchoring its Victory ship in Antigua as of Jan. 3, 2010. Instead, the 2,758-passenger ship will be sailing to St. Maarten.
``There was no discussion, none,'' Maginely said. ``We're supposed to be partners in this thing, and all we got was an e-mail sent to the agent in Antigua that Carnival is pulling its boat.''
Maginley has a meeting scheduled with Carnival on Thursday. He says before the cancellation, he had been speaking to Carnival about increasing the number of cruise ships visiting Antigua. He was told, he said, that it takes 18 months to two years to make such a decision.
Maginley pointed out that the decision came three weeks after six Carnival Victory passengers were jailed in Antigua following a scuffle with police and claims by a local taxi driver that they had refused to pay a $100 taxi fare. The incident made international headlines with popular radio and TV personalities calling the Caribbean island a rogue nation, and accusing it of illegally detaining Americans.
Maginley said the characterizations are unfair, and the passengers are being given due process in what is being considered a police matter. Further, he said, U.S. embassy officials have been in touch with the passengers who have been released and are awaiting a court appearance in Antigua.``Until this date, they have not communicated to me as tourism minister . . . saying they are pulling the boat,'' Maginley said.
The Victory brings in about 150,000 passengers annually, and according to 2006 figures, each passenger spends an average of $115 on souvenirs and other purchases. The head tax, alone, he said, adds about $500,000 to Antigua's government coffers.
Carnival has denied that the decision has anything to do with the arrest of its passengers. Jennifer de la Cruz, spokeswoman for Carnival Cruise Lines, told The Miami Herald that the company had ``opted to take Antigua off the itinerary as of the beginning of January and replace it with St. Maarten.''
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