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St Maarten welcomes first cruise ship after Hurricane Irma

Viking SeaAlmost three months to the day after Hurricane Irma wreaked devastation, St Maarten has welcomed its first cruise ship. Authorities in the Dutch-Caribbean enclave pulled out all the stops to welcome the Viking Sea when she arrived in port yesterday.

Beauty queens, Caribbean steel drum music, dancing and stilt walkers were among the entertainment on offer as the passengers disembarked from the Viking Sea. St Maarten government and port officials were on hand to extend a warm welcome to the passengers and unfurled banners to commemorate the milestone occasion.

Wristbands emblazoned with the solidarity logo #SXMSTRONG were handed out to passengers as they arrived. A ceremony on board the cruise ship saw the exchange of memento plaques to mark the relaunch of St Maarten as a Caribbean port-of-call.

The Viking Sea was the first scheduled passenger cruise ship to put into St Maarten since Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean on 6 September. Similar welcome events are planned to mark the arrival of the next two cruise boats to visit.

The Marella Discovery is due to land today and the Grandeur of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean flagship, is scheduled to arrive on the 17 December. Passengers on the Viking Sea said the arrival ceremonies were a welcome surprise and showed the islanders strength in bouncing back from adversity.

They also noted that there were still a few traces of hurricane damage. Other Caribbean cruise ports have slowly been reopening. San Juan and St Thomas both greeted their first ships last month and the British Virgin Islands port of Tortola is set to open again tomorrow.

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