PHILIPSBURG–It was a double celebration for Port St. Maarten on Thursday as it welcomed the inaugural call of the new Carnival Horizon to the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facility while honouring the one millionth cruise ship guest to St. Maarten since January 2018.
In reality the one million mark has been surpassed. The presentation ceremony for the cruise ship couple in question, Timothy and Cheryl Franklin, was due to be held mid-September but had to be postponed due to the threat of Hurricane Isaac at the time.
A large delegation led by Port St. Maarten that included Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (TEATT) Stuart Johnson, and several tourism partners attended the plaque exchange ceremony and presentation of gifts and certificates to Timothy and Cheryl Franklin.
Present were board members of the Port, and representatives from the Government’s Department of Economic Affairs, Windward Islands Airways International NV Winair, Chamber of Commerce, ship’s agent Maduro and Sons, Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA), St. Maarten Tourism Bureau, St. Maarten Taxi Association, and Rain Forest Adventures.
“We’re showing appreciation to Carnival Cruise Line’s commitment to St. Maarten’s product and at the same time showing appreciation to these passengers who have done over 240 cruise ship days, many of them in St. Maarten,” commented the Port’s Business development and Marketing Manager Alexander Gumbs. “It’s good to show appreciation to repeat passengers as they can experience a renewal of the product with new hotels, restaurants, shops, and tours and activities coming on line.”
Gift certificates and tokens of appreciation were presented to the couple. They included a complimentary future three night-stay at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort from St. Maarten Tourism Bureau, return air tickets for two to any local islands Winair flies to donated by Winair and a cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines presented by Port St. Maarten.
In addition, they were offered a complimentary VIP tour of the island, complimentary lunch at Yvette’s, and a visit to Rain Forest Adventure park. Minister Johnson took the opportunity to congratulate the couple’s milestone and the ship’s captain, Luigi de Angelis, for docking in “the best port of the Caribbean.”
“Today is indeed a milestone for St. Maarten too, one year and a few weeks after Irma devastated the island. Our country not only shows resilience, but we are bouncing back stronger than ever,” said Johnson. “To Timothy and Cheryl, your return to St. Maarten reflects who we are as a people, our hospitality, the local flair that we provide.
“On behalf of our Government, and President of French St. Martin Tourism Office Valérie Damaseau, I extend my heartfelt appreciation to Carnival Cruise Lines for again choosing St. Maarten as a port of call.”
Expressing thanks for the gifts, the couple said they felt “blessed and honoured.”
“On some islands we don’t leave the ship but that’s not the case here,” said Timothy. “We love St. Maarten, we love the people, you are warm and welcoming and not pushy. We always feel safe here. We always have a good time here and will keep coming back.”
The traditional plaque exchanges then followed before a tour of the ship and refreshments were offered. Minister Johnson presented Captain de Angelis with a photo taken of Carnival Horizon mounted on a plaque. The captain reciprocated with tokens of appreciation for the Minister and the Port representatives.
“Seeing what you have done with the recovery one year later is astonishing” Captain de Angelis said. “It shows how much you care for the country. Carnival wanted to come back as soon as possible because it’s the destination our guests like the most. Thank you for your welcome. We look forward to many more visits.”
Hotel Director Pierre Camilleri noted Carnival Horizon is carrying 4,560 guests on this cruise with 1,470 team members from 57 countries.
“Over 70 per cent of our guests have cruised on Carnival before and we believe half of those have been to St. Maarten before,” he said. “We are very excited to be here for this inaugural call.”