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Saturday 17 August 2019
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CRUISING

Cruising the southern Caribbean will soon become an easily accessible, affordable reality when the Ms Adriana begins operating two-night and five-night cruises from Port-of-Spain, Trinidad at the end of July.

Previously based in the Black Sea, the boutique cruise ship has a 300-passenger capacity with 140 cabins ranging in size from a deluxe cabin with a tub to six single occupancy cabins.

President of the Miami-based company, West Indies Cruises, Henry Yaniz, who worked closely with Ms Adriana’s owner, Sergey Poniatoviski, to bring the ship to Trinidad and Tobago (TT), spoke to Business Day about what makes Trinidad and Tobago (TT) an ideal base from which to operate, and how having the Ms Adriana here will benefit local businesses.

“We brought the ship to capture the market in the southern Caribbean region and Trinidad is the biggest, strongest segment of that market. This is where the people are, so the intent of the project is to embark and source cruise passengers here.

“We’re not bringing cruise passengers from North America and/or Europe. We’re looking to get new cruise passengers from right here in TT and neighbouring countries,” Yaniz said.

While there is a core crew, several of them from Ukraine, the Ms Adriana’s owners would be looking to “source supplies and additional staff, including musicians, locally.”

“In fact,” Yaniz revealed with a smile, “hundreds of dollars worth of new bedding material has already been bought right here (PoS) by the owner’s wife, Tatiana Poniatoviski.”

“If this (venture) is successful,” Yaniz added, “the ship stays here, we keep buying things here and travel agents get to keep earning commissions. We will sell and collect in TT dollars.

In 1970, five million people took cruises. Now 23 million a year take cruises, so there is a market for this, particularly in the southern Caribbean, which isn’t visited as often by cruise lines.”

Ms Adriana operated in the Black Sea, whose shorelines are divided amongst Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.

Although Yaniz and his “good friend Sergey” have been talking about moving the ship to TT and servicing the southern Caribbean for the past five or six years, the time didn’t seem right.

However the on-going conflict between Ukraine and Russia has had a negative impact on tourism in the Black Sea region, prompting the two men to finally execute their idea.

“When there were the issues in the Black Sea, we said OK, let’s go ahead, let’s go develop the southern Caribbean region. Let’s try our hand there and see how it’ll go,” Yaniz recalled. That conversation took place very recently, resulting in the Ms Adriana docking in Trinidad early last week.

Starting at the end of July and running through January 2016, the Ms Adriana will operate two-night and five-night cruises from Port-of-Spain.

The two-night itinerary starts with a Friday night sailing from PoS, arriving in Charlotteville, Tobago, on Saturday morning and returning to PoS on Sunday morning.

The five-night itinerary which see passengers arriving in Isla Margarita, Venezuela on a Monday morning, heading to St George’s in Grenada on Tuesday, Bridgeport in Barbados on Wednesday, Charlotteville in Tobago on Thursday and then back in PoS on the Friday. Prices are being finalised but Yaniz told Business Day that prices for an interior cabin (no window) on a two-night cruise would start at about TT $2,000 per person while interior cabins on a five-night cruise would start at TT $5,000 per person. Cabins with windows would cost more, depending on the size and features included.

On the two-night cruise, a cabin with a window would probably cost TT $3,500 or US $300 per person while a five-night cruise will be roughly TT $4,000 or US $600 per person.

The highest category, the Deluxe cabin with a queen-sized bed and a window, on the five-night cruise would be approximately US $750 per person. The family suite; one room has two single beds and a window while the other has a full bed and a window, both with windows, would cost about the same as a deluxe - US $750 per person.

The mini casino onboard “is a little extra but low-level minimums” while its free to play chess or dominoes.

Yaniz was keen to point out there are “no hidden fees” in these prices.

“What you pay covers everything from the cruise fare to the service fare and the port cost. It is customary in the cruise businesses that these other things are added on but we are including all of that in our prices However excursions/activities at each port of call are extra but these are optional items which passengers can either pay for in advance or while on their cruise.”

A lot of refurbishment work has been already been done on the 43-year-old ship while new bedding is among the list of things to be done in the approximately eight weeks leading up to the first cruise from PoS at the end of July.

Speaking to travel agents from TT and Barbados during a tour of the ship last Friday (June 5), which is docked at the Port of Port-of-Spain, Yaniz assured that it “may have been built in Europe in 1972 but it is in very good condition and has sailed safely to Antarctica, Greenland, the North Pole, and of course its former base in the Black Sea.”

“It’s an intimate ship. Very cozy, traditional and classic in its design and execution. How it’s laid out, the cabins are extremely spacious with spacious bathrooms and the deluxe cabins have tubs, so the Ms Adriana is very comfortable,” Yaniz said.

The more intimate setting also makes the ship ideal for a Captain’s Gala Night on each of the cruises, “where everyone dresses up.”

“There’s a cocktail reception where you meet the captain and get a picture with him,” Yaniz explained.

He also noted that unlike large cruise liners, on a “boutique” ship like the Ms Adriana, you get more attention from the crew.

“There are no crowds aboard this ship. Our dining room holds 300 people, which means we can operate an open-seating arrangement, where guests don’t have to book a time to eat dinner. They can go in when it’s convenient to them whereas on the big ships it’s more regimented because there are so many people aboard,” Yaniz said.

Another benefit of booking a cruise on the Ms Adriana, is that you don’t require a United States visa to gain entry to Miami, Florida where many Caribbean cruises begin their journey.

“There’s a sense of convenience that the ship that is here in Trinidad. There’s a sense that you can get to the ship by driving over and embarking here and taking a real cruise,” Yaniz said with a smile.

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