The Straw Market on Bay Street.
By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
NORWEGIAN Cruise Lines has denied prohibiting its passengers from taking straw works purchased in Nassau on board one of its ships, emphasising a strong commitment to the Bahamas.
According to NCL’s Vice President of Public Relations AnneMarie Mathews, straw craft bought in the large Straw Market meets USDA regulations and can be collected by tourists.
Both NCL and Ministry of Tourism officials said yesterday they were working to reach a resolve.
Ms Mathews said: “Norwegian Cruise Line has a strong commitment to the Bahamas having recently made a significant investment in further developing our private island in the Bahamas. On Great Stirrup Cay, we have developed a number of exclusive areas for our guests, including a shopping village where local handicraft artisans can showcase their items in a tropical environment.
“Straw crafts from the Bahamas, including those sold in the large Straw Market in Nassau and on Great Stirrup Cay, are permitted under USDA regulations and therefore can be brought on board Norwegian Cruise Line vessels.”
Director of Maritime Tourism Janet Johnson suggested that the issue was the result of over-zealous cruise ship stewards.
She said: “Yes, we have had discussions with NCL. They shared with us the list of countries where the issue of Red Mite Bug occurs and they include Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Guadeloupe, India, Israel, Iran, Jamaica, Martinique, Mauritius, Pakistan, Philippines, South Sudan, St Maarten, St Thomas, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago.
“It appears to be a misunderstanding on the part of over-zealous stewards on the new ship as their press release from Anne Marie Matthews, VP - PR would suggest. We are in ongoing talks with all of the lines.”
Last week, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said the issue was believed to be connected to how new cruise ship staff applied NCL’s policies. He said there was a concern that the misunderstanding could hurt the industry.
Ms Johnson further explained that the ban carried a connection to regional infestation of red palm mite, an invasive species that has spread through the Caribbean since 2004. However, she said there were no incidents of red mite in the Bahamas as a large percentage of straw was cured.
The Tribune was alerted to the issue by a concerned vendor, who was told by a tourist that they could not purchase straw craft because it would be confiscated by ship officials.