Saturday’s hosting of a cruise ship with 159 evacuees on their way home from St. Vincent (see related story) had been criticised beforehand by some. As only US nationals were originally mentioned, the issue was brought up why Americans should be privileged over others wanting to get off the island due to the volcano eruption there, but the group also included persons from Canada and the United Kingdom (UK).
Moreover, it is quite normal that countries try to help their citizens leave places where calamities have occurred. After the hurricanes of September 2017 devastated St. Maarten/St. Martin even Venezuela and Brazil sent planes to fly their people out.
There were concerns in this case about the COVID-19 risk involved; however, all the vessel’s passengers had a negative PCR test result from within 72 hours of their arrival. It took a while before they could clear Immigration and disembark, so to prevent them from losing their flights police escorts were provided for transportation to Princess Juliana International Airport (PIJA) by taxi drivers happy to get some work.
The question was also raised how come nearby US territories like St. Thomas were not chosen instead, but one must keep in mind that not every other destination in the region can offer the variety of international connections readily available here. In that sense, this experience was good practice for the home-porting cruises from Philipsburg starting in early June too.
Apart from the humanitarian aspect, “The Friendly Island” again proved its capability to process travellers regardless of the circumstances and that is certainly worth something.