As the Caribbean Princess sailed into port, the Carnival Victory was close on its heels. Both ships will serve as floating hotels for the media and delegates of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, and the venues for pre-summit events from today until April 20 when they are due to leave the country.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning opens the civil society forum aboard the Carnival Victory at 6.30 pm today and the private sector forum on the Caribbean Princess tomorrow at 9 am. The youth forum also opens tomorrow aboard the Princess at 9 am.
From as early as noon, hundreds of curious onlookers flocked to the waterfront to visit the Summit Village which was opened yesterday at 1.30 pm and to wait for the arrival of the ships. While members of the public and guests from the nearby Hyatt Regency visited the booths at the village and enjoyed entertainment from calypsonians Lord Relator and Denyse Plummer, Manning and other members of the inter-ministerial team who have been overseeing the preparations for the summit were meeting in a conference room inside the hotel. For the duration of the afternoon, citizens, hotel guests and even security personnel kept their eyes trained on the horizon hoping to catch a glimpse of the Caribbean Princess and the Carnival Victory.
Their patience was rewarded around 5 pm when the 113,000 tonne Caribbean Princess steamed steadily toward the Port-of-Spain port. Some parents raised their children on their shoulders so they could see the Princess which has a crew of 1,200 and a passenger capacity of 3,100. Some of the 1,000-strong American delegation accompanying US President Barack Obama to the summit will be staying on board the Caribbean Princess.
With the green waters of the Gulf-of-Paria churning beneath its massive frame, the Caribbean Princess neared the port under the watchful gaze of the crew of one of the new Coast Guard interceptors which was commissioned last week, a Coast Guard offshore patrol vessel and a marine police boat. People looked on in amusement as the inter-island ferry TT Spirit was dwarfed by the Caribbean Princess at it left Port-of-Spain bound for Tobago.
As its horn blared, persons lining the waterfront cheered and waved. The ship’s crew returned the favour by clapping their hands, waving back and shouting “Obama, Obama”, referring to the popular US President, Barack Obama.
In the distance, the red smokestack of the Carnival Victory was visible in the fading light.
The Carnival Victory is a 101,500 tonne ship with a passenger capacity of 2,758 persons. When the Victory docked at 5.50 pm, onlookers observed that a part of its red smokestack had been painted white and black.
Trade and Industry Minister Mariano Browne, National Security Minister Martin Joseph and Tourism Minister Joseph Ross (members of the inter-ministerial team) mingled with the public on the waterfront, watching the ships.
One government official got so caught up in the moment that she gave a digital camera to one of her colleagues and cried, “Say summit!” as she posed with two tourists for a picture. Ross said he was proud to see the summit taking shape and dismissed claims that Government was wasting money by hosting the summit. He added that a lot of the expenditure will “remain right here” and the country will benefit from the improved infrastructure.