First cruise ship passengers arrive in Seychelles after 18-month COVID pause
Le Bellot will take the approximately 140 passengers to visit the inner islands of Seychelles for the next few weeks. (Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles' Port Victoria on Thursday welcomed its first cruise ship in 18 months with the arrival of visitors from France aboard Le Bellot.
The vessel was welcomed in a special ceremony held at the new port. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Sylvestre Radegonde, said the return of cruise ships after a long pause due to COVID-19 is very good for Seychelles.
"This cruise ship will be staying in the Seychelles waters for the next few weeks, where it will also be a huge boost to Praslin and La Digue as it will bring more tourist movement to these two islands which rely a lot on such activities," said Radegonde.
The French ambassador to Seychelles, Dominique Mas, called the arrival of Le Bellot, which is a part of the Ponant group, a big day for both countries.
"I am very happy to see French tourists back in Seychelles. Recently the French tourism market in Seychelles has really been given a boost with the return of Air France," said Mas.
Strict health guidelines have been put in place and this includes that all travellers being fully vaccinated while the vessels are only allowed to carry a maximum of 300 passengers.
"I think the risk taken by the government to re-open its borders to tourists is bearing fruit, where today we have numerous people visiting Seychelles," said Mas
For the next few weeks, Le Bellot will be sailing around some of the inner islands of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
Le Bellot is the fifth ship of the Ponant Explorers class of cruise ships operated by the Ponant group. Each member of the class has been allocated the name of a famous French explorer, and Le Bellot is named after Joseph René Bellot, a French naval officer and Arctic explorer.
The cruise will take the approximately 140 passengers to visit the inner islands and some will then fly back home while others will come to join the next leg of the ship's tour.
Prior to the pandemic, cruise ships were a $45 billion global industry, carrying 20 million passengers a year, with a very loyal fan base. The industry was also heavily impacted by the pandemic, with many countries putting place no sail orders for cruises.
Port Victoria recorded 39 cruise ship calls during the 2019/2020 season, with a total of 63,442 passengers.
The last vessel to call before the season was forced to close prematurely was the Bougainville, another ship operated by the Ponant group, on March 11 last year.