The cruise ship season is upon us with 5 ships due in the next few months. Today’s visit by the MV Astor is the first. With 650 passengers and 300 crew potentially landing on the island there was much planning. As part of the island’s focus on increasing tourism we set up a street market with some of the island’s crafts people and our students preparing a variety of fast food items using local produce.
Our strategy is to wow the passengers so they want to return when our airport is open and also that the passengers return to their ships with the message that St Helena is a great destination to cruise to.
The ship was due to allow passengers to disembark at 11.00am but we had the rigmarole of wondering whether they would be allowed off as the ocean was perceived to be a bit rough.
As the Astor’s passengers hadn’t been allowed off at Ascension Island because of rough seas, they were in no mood to stay on board at St Helena. I spoke to one couple who were said they were determined to get onto the island and had made their views felt to the Ship’s Hotel Manager.
By 12.00 we knew that the passengers were going to be allowed off so it was all hands on deck as they say! Souvenir stalls checked their wares, the food purveyors got hot food cooking and the accordion player cranked up a tune! There was a real party atmosphere.
The first folk I spoke to were keen to find a laundry of all things; saying that they prefer not to pay ship prices for this service. I am not too sure whether they found someone who would get their items washed and dried in the 6 hours before they needed to get back on board as the people in town usually offer a 24 hour turnaround. Maybe this is a business opportunity for someone!
The day continued with music from our local accordion player and three of the junior schools on the island. This enhanced the atmosphere and reminded all in Jamestown that something was going on at the bottom of Town.
Many of the tourists on the ship were British, some had chosen the cruise because it was specifically coming to St Helena. One man I spoke to was from Bridlington in Yorkshire, he and his wife had decided not to take an island tour but to stay in Jamestown to get a feel for the place. He said to me that he had thoroughly enjoyed his day here, especially the friendliness of everyone he'd met. "It's not just the scenery that makes a destination, its the folk!".