The long-anticipated arrival of MS Bremen cruise came to an end on the 1st November 2018 when Bikati Island (pronounced Big Arse) on Butaritari Atoll witnessed and experienced their very first cruise ship reception. The islanders were very curious at the same time excited to see the cruise ship and the 131 visitors landing on their shore.
The vessel landed at around 9am, greeted with the sounds of conch shells and friendly greetings from the Chief, Mayor of Butaritari, people and children who all stood by the shore to greet each of the passengers and crew as they came ashore on the beach. Fresh green coconut refreshments were also distributed to the cruise passengers to taste the water of the land.
The cruise visitors were entertained with a brief formal program – welcome speech, local dancing and garlanding. After the formal program, the cruise passengers were free to roam the island. Paths to the beaches, village, primary school and toilets were all designated and marked to help the visitors find their way on the island.
The visitors enjoyed their time on the island engaging in swimming & sunbathing, canoe riding, touring the village, meeting the locals, buying souvenirs and observing local activities and entertainment. The locals were also very happy making extra income in U.S Dollars from selling handicraft & souvenirs, entertainment and tour activities.
A Tourism officer from the KNTO was also present at the scene to oversee preparations prior to the cruise visit. The Tourism Officer also managed to meet with the Cruise Expedition leader Mr. Thomas Schubert. Mr. Schubert commented that the passengers were very pleased with the warm reception, setup and the preparation efforts that had been put in place to receive passengers of cruise ship Bremen. He also commented that Bikati was very beautiful and clean. With his words of appreciation, he further mentioned that the cruise will again visit Bikati Island in 2020 and they will come with a bigger cruise ship with more than 200 passengers.
Both the Councillor and Chairman mentioned that the people of Bikati were very happy to receive their first cruise ship. Through the various comments and recommendations gathered from the passengers and crew, the villagers will improve their surroundings and environment to provide a more authentic and memorable experience to the visitors.
The KNTO and the Shipping Agencies of Kiribati (SAOK) have been liaising with foreign cruise line companies and will do their best to attract more cruises in the future to help improve tourism in Kiribati.
[Source; Te Kaongoa/Kiribati NTO]