Port Vila open for business
Just under a month since Cyclone Pam ripped through the heart of Vanuatu, passengers on P&O cruise ship Pacific Dawn are heading back to Port Vila and will go ashore. More than 130,000 people were impacted by the storm which hit on March 14, with catastrophic damage throughout the South Pacific islands, 90% of buildings destroyed and an unconfirmed number of more than 20 deaths.
Numerous cruise ships have been re-routed away from Port Vila and Mystery Island in recent weeks, but in a remarkable turn of events Port Vila is once again open for business. The cruising community has united to try and help the region, with thousands of online posters asking how they could assist with aid efforts and how quickly a return was likely. Carnival Australia donated $300,000, while Royal Caribbean topped that up with another $100,000. But the news that Pacific Dawn is on its way to Port Vila and the cruising dollar will be flowing through the region is an undoubted boost.
Dawn and Pearl a welcome boost
P&O Cruises' Pacific Dawn left Brisbane on Easter Saturday and is due to arrive at Port Vila on Wednesday April 8, with Pacific Pearl following suit three days later. Both ships will be carrying humanitarian aid for the ongoing rebuild, but passengers can also disembark for day visits.
"The arrival of the two ships, which between them will be carrying 4000 passengers, sends powerful signals about Vanuatu's capacity to bounce back from such a major natural disaster" said Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry.
"Our passengers have been eager to return to Vila to show their support for the people of Vanuatu and it is an expression of our promise to resume regular cruise calls because of the importance of cruise tourism to the Vanuatu economy."
Royal Caribbean has also announced that Radiance of the Seas will not be travelling to Port Vila on its current South Pacific itinerary but is vowing to return there at the start of the summer cruise season in October 2015.
Integral to Vanuatu's recovery
The relevance of the cruise industry to Vanuatu cannot be underestimated, with around two thirds of international visitors arriving on a ship. And while passengers are likely to be limited to the downtown area of Port Vila, it's still a major step forward.
"The return of our ships and our passengers is a very important sign that life in Vanuatu is finally getting back to normal after such a traumatic experience" Sherry said.
While Dawn and Pearl will deliver passengers for the first time since the cyclone, the likes of Carnival Legend and Carnival Spirit have also been to Port Vila to deliver humanitarian aid.