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Welcome to 'the other side of the Caribbean'

Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, left, and, at right, Charles Carvalho and Charles Carvalho Jr. flank Holland America Line president Orlando Ashford at the recent FCCA conference Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, left, and, at right, Charles Carvalho and Charles Carvalho Jr. flank Holland America Line president Orlando Ashford at the recent FCCA conference (Photos: Anne Kalosh)

Trinidad and Tobago's new tourism minister, Shamfa Cudjoe, attended the recent Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association conference in Mérida, Mexico, where she met with cruise line leaders.

Since the country is located in the far southern Caribbean, beyond the typical seven-day, bread-and-butter cruise itinerary, Cudjoe's administration is looking at new incentives to entice ships, according to Charles Carvalho, CEO, Carvalho's Agencies, who assisted the minister with introductions at the FCCA event.

'Our government is very serious about cruise tourism,' Carvalho said. He's a 33-year industry veteran who remembers when Port of Spain was a bustling homeport. He'd love to see it like that again.

Together, Trinidad and Tobago expect about 100 calls this season, 10 more than in 2016/17. Viking Cruises, P&O's Britannia and MSC Cruises are all calling at Tobago for the first time.

Carvalho promotes the destination as 'the other side of the Caribbean.' Culture, lifestyle, history, food and people are the focus, rather than sun and beaches—though Trinidad and Tobago have those, too.

There's a benefit for ships that visit the two islands, since one fee covers both destinations. They offer distinctly different experiences, but each has nature.

'Our attractions are all natural, not man-made,' Carvalho said.

For example, Trinidad is one of the Caribbean's top birding destinations, and its Asa Wright Nature Centre and Caroni Bird Sanctuary are famous. Tobago, meanwhile, is known for ecotourism, and its Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, established in 1776, is the hemisphere's oldest protected nature area.

Carvalho said there's still interest in developing a canopy zip line as a new way to explore the Reserve, a project that was started, then stalled.

Every ship visiting Port of Spain this season is welcomed with a mini Carnival parade, giving a taste of Trinidad's famous annual Carnival. Minister Cudjoe herself was on hand for the Caribbean Princess season opener.

Port of Spain excursions number more than a dozen and include a city tour featuring a cultural show with calypso and steel pan performances, a 4x4 adventure, a waterfall hike and swim, Asa Wright Nature Centre, Caroni Bird Sanctuary and more.

According to Carvalho, tour sales tend to be higher than at other ports because the offerings are different.

In another point of distinction, as a major source of liquefied natural gas, Trinidad could play a role in supplying future LNG-powered cruise ships via fuel barge.

Carvalho said discussions with an LNG supplier were initiated one year ago, and a cruise company has expressed interest.

Posted 14 November 2017

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Anne Kalosh

US editor of Seatrade Cruise Review and Seatrade Cruise News

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