I first thought of having a cruise ship as a “floating hotel” in Trinidad for Carnival in January 2014, but the actual journey began a month later when I discussed the idea with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines executives. While waiting for the cruise line executives to have their internal conversations, I traveled to Trinidad to meet with the TDC, as well as one of the largest Soca bands in Trinidad. Since that time, I have traveled to Trinidad several times to meet with the Ministry of Tourism, along with other local individuals to make this dream a reality.
After several years of miscellaneous conversations, I was finally contacted by Senator The Hon. Randall Mitchell in 2018 offering his assistance. I spoke with Minister Mitchell over the phone, and then flew to Trinidad to meet in person. For several years cruise lines were not keen on leaving a ship in Trinidad for five nights due to safety reasons, but I felt that getting the support from the Minister of Tourism would further help sway the cruise lines into changing their minds.
Minister Mitchell kindly drafted several letters to the various cruise lines (NCL, RCCL & Celebrity), informing them we were working together, and that he fully supported the idea of a dockside charter. Unfortunately, even with the support of Minister Mitchell, the cruise lines’ global security team still did not agree to having a ship in Trinidad for five nights, citing the same security and safety reasons for why they declined approving the charter. Refusing to give up, I continued to pursue my dream, keeping all lines of conversation and communication open.
In 2019, I was introduced by a mutual colleague to a Trinidadian individual who also shared the desire to have a ship in Trinidad for Carnival. I explained my efforts since 2014 and was upfront with the fact that I reached a roadblock due to safety reasons. In further conversations, he mentioned working with a third party who had contacts in the cruise industry and was able to secure for him the approval for a charter to Trinidad for Carnival. I was very surprised but assured him that if he was able to execute it, I would not pursue it any further.
Before entirely giving up on my dream, I did some digging with my internal cruise line contacts, only to learn that the information being provided to him from this third party was entirely false; no cruise line had agreed to do this charter. I informed him as soon as I received the feedback because I felt that was the right thing to do.
In December of 2020, I was contacted by RCCL with the best news - they finally agreed to do the five-night dockside charter for Trinidad Carnival sailing out of Barbados. I was thrilled and motivated to proceed after several years of conversations. Due to COVID-19, the entire cruise industry was in a voluntary suspension, so this news provided me with some hope for the future.
In January 2021, RCCL updated me that they had to withdraw the quote I received for the charter due to RCCL’s fear of the new Barbados itinerary not doing well enough for RCCL to continue, which would later prompt RCCL to cancel that itinerary and ultimately the dockside charter to Trinidad. I refused to give up and started to investigate sailing out of San Juan. We created an 11-night itinerary which seemed lengthy at first, but given it included two weekends and participants would only need seven days off work, I was confident I could pull it off considering most people traveling to Trinidad Carnival would take at least seven days off or more. I kept this information confidential as the current situation of COVID-19 was causing so much loss in the world. The cruise lines were still in a voluntary suspension and there was no sight of that changing at that time.
In June of 2021, after the cruise lines announced going back into service, it gave me the confidence to finally, after seven very long years, execute the idea of the Trinidad Carnival cruise. I was overjoyed to say the least.
A couple of weeks after the announcement of Island Sea Fest’s Trinidad Carnival cruise, I noticed a few texts I had missed from this individual again. I spoke with him, and he informed me that he got approval to do the dockside charter in Trinidad. He then said there was a British company named Island Sea Fest that was already advertising the same thing. I informed him that Island Sea Fest was my company. He then inquired if I wanted a partner, but after having several partnerships in the past that didn’t work out, I said it was unlikely. Several texts were sent by this individual which I didn’t respond to.
A few weeks later I was informed that this individual paid Trinidad’s Port Authority to hold berthing space in Port of Spain and Tobago.
In my 35 years in the cruise industry, this has never been done. Only the cruise line, via their official ship agent, has the authorization to hold berthing space on their behalf.
The official ship agency in Trinidad and Royal Caribbean were both shocked to know an individual, who is not a representative of the cruise line, nor even affiliated, can walk into Trinidad’s Port Authority, and pay them to hold berthing space on behalf of a cruise line. This is unprecedented and disturbing to everyone as it does not happen in any other port in the world. RCCL has tried to resolve this to no avail, but Trinidad’s Port Authority will not release the berthing. This has resulted in Island Sea Fest not having any berthing space in Port of Spain or Tobago, and why we must postpone.
I want to be very clear; I do not hold RCCL responsible for what has transpired. They did their best to rectify this situation with Trinidad’s Port Authority.
Island Sea Fest would like to thank Minister Randall for his efforts and involvement in the process and support given over the past few years.
Until this matter can be resolved, Island Sea Fest will continue to build brand awareness for future opportunities in the theme cruise market. In the meantime, we will focus on other great opportunities, so we kindly ask you to like/follow us on our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter channels as we continue to build a solid base (@islandseafest).
We also want to sincerely thank our vendor partners that saw this as added value to Trinidad & Tobago’s economy and Carnival who went above and beyond to assist Island Sea Fest.