In a historic moment for the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Captain Ludel Harvey-Lloyd became the first individual to dock the world’s largest cruise ship, ‘Icon of the Seas’, during its inaugural voyage to Basseterre on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, meeting the vessel out at sea, climbing aboard and bringing it to port.
It was the prestigious first stop for the massive vessel. Part of the esteemed Royal Caribbean Fleet, St. Kitts and Nevis was chosen as its initial destination after setting sail on its maiden voyage from Miami on January 27.
The ‘Icon of the Seas’, spanning an impressive 365 metres (1,197 feet) in length, boasts 20 decks, and has the capacity to accommodate up to 7,600 passengers and 2,350 crew members.
In an exclusive interview, Captain Harvey-Lloyd shared his thoughts and experiences on this momentous occasion.
Reflecting on the significance of being the first person to board the ‘Icon of the Seas’ at the port, Captain Harvey-Lloyd expressed pride in showcasing the capability of the nation to handle such large-scale operations.
He spoke of the significance of the achievement for both himself and the citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis, highlighting the capacity of the nation to accomplish remarkable feats despite its size.
“Well, it was a good opportunity to make the citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis proud. To be on board the largest cruise ship in the world, and to show that, as small as we are as a nation, we can do big things. It was really a great achievement for me.”
While the operation itself was routine for the veteran of more than 20 years, Captain Harvey-Lloyd noted the distinct characteristics of the ‘Icon of the Seas’ compared to other vessels he has docked in the past.
“The operation itself was not new to me, because that’s what I’ve been doing on a daily basis, for the last 20-plus years. However, this ship is rather different. It’s a more modern ship. She has plenty more power. Adjusting to these conditions was not really a challenge for me, because we have trained for them in the past few years. So, there’s nothing really too much to adjust to.“
He said the ship’s modern design and advanced propulsion system, including its LNG operation, presented new features that facilitated easier manoeuvrability and environmentally-friendly operations.
“When I joined this profession back in 2000, we were transitioning from the older system into the newer system, whereby ships would have had propellers and shaft arrangements.”
“These ships have a new propulsion system. They can turn 360 degrees, which allows me the opportunity to walk these ships sideways, just laterally into positions, and all that.”
“Also, these ships are LNG-operated. So, back in the day, when we would have dock vessels, we would use diesel and heavy fuel oil and all that. The conditions are much different now. They are more environmentally-friendly. So, the ships are more sustainable. They are much, much different.”
When asked about any challenges encountered during the docking process, Captain Harvey-Lloyd revealed that the conditions were optimal, with mild winds and calm seas contributing to a seamless operation. He spoke of the importance of leveraging environmental factors to navigate larger vessels effectively, showcasing his expertise in utilising wind and current to his advantage.
“They are more highly manoeuvrable. You have more gadgets now to assist you in getting these vessels alongside much easier.”
“The conditions were perfect. We had winds of just about eight knots. We had no crosswinds. We had flat, calm seas. So, in perfect conditions as I would say, because the port of our stay can become challenging at times, whenever we have strong winds or heavy currents, anything of that nature. The conditions yesterday were really good. We had no issues, no challenges.”
Regarding the logistics of docking such a massive ship, Captain Harvey-Lloyd acknowledged that larger vessels inherently pose greater challenges, but the remarkable power and manoeuvrability of ‘Icon of the Seas’, makes docking in various conditions feasible and convenient.
“Quite naturally, in anything that you do, the bigger you go, the more challenges you get. But from being trained and experiencing this, we would understand how to use the elements, the wind, the current, and all of that—to advantage, to get vessels alongside.”
“So, we would know how to manoeuvre them upwind, downwind. There are some large ships that have challenges with wind, current, and all that. But I can say for the Icon, she has power to spare. So, there’s no issue with that vessel docking in conditions. The vessel is just a good vessel. She is highly powerful.”
Despite the global attention surrounding the event, Captain Harvey-Lloyd remained humble, focusing on executing his duties with professionalism and expertise.
“I am just a humble person. I do my job. And I do it to the best of my ability.
There was no nerves for me. There was quite a bit of hype. My mind was like, ‘oh, I’m going to do this.’”
“I understand it was going all around the world—Facebook, all kinds of things—but I am not moved by these things. I just go and do my job and be professional at it and so on. It was just a normal day for me, just handling something new. That’s all. There was no nerves in it. After I would have gotten on board and done my exchange, which is normal with the captain, and stuff like that. We continued to proceed alongside.”
The arrival of Icon of the Seas at Port Zante in Basseterre signifies not only a new chapter in the nation’s thriving tourism industry, but also underscores the global recognition and appeal of St. Kitts and Nevis as a premier cruise destination.
In celebration of this historic event, a series of cultural performances and festivities were held, showcasing the rich heritage and vibrant culture of St. Kitts and Nevis. These events provided an opportunity for cruise passengers to experience the unique charm and hospitality that the islands are renowned for.