Next month, the Port of Bridgetown will unveil a newly expanded and modernized cruise passenger terminal, designed to accommodate the increased passenger flow the port has experienced during the past few years. In addition, the port plans to beef up its marketing activities in an effort to lure more cruise lines to Barbados.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Ocean Cruise Lines are the only two lines that are currently based in Barbados; and six others - Chandris, Costa, Cunard, Paquet, Princess and Sea Goddess - call there regularly. Several more call in Barbados periodically.

In addition, Exploration Cruise Lines will bring approximately 250 more passengers a week to Barbados beginning this summer, and Paquet's Rhapsody is expected to add another 500 to 700 weekly beginning in November - pending Regency's purchase of the ship. Ocean Cruise Lines also has announced its plans to position the Ocean Islander in Barbados, along with its Ocean Princess next winter.

The port is perfectly equipped to handle the increased passenger flow, according to Leroy Sisnett, parliamentary secretary of the Minstry of International Transport. Due to a multi-million dollar renovation, the port can accommodate as many as five ships at one time, and has handled as many as seven. It has also had as many as 10 ships pass through in a single weekend, Sisnett said.

The Port Authority is in the process of turning Bridgetown's largest cargo terminal into a modern and expansive cruise passenger terminal. Scheduled for completion next month, the new terminal will have several duty free shops, with "a sizable quantity of quality merchan­dise;" excellent telecommunications; overseas telephone capabilities; a division of the tourist board; and plenty of stations to check passengers through immigration, Sisnett reported.

Already boasting an efficient fly/cruise operation - it takes just 17 minutes to move embarking passengers through customs - Sisnett said - the port is investigating additional ways to expedite the flow of traffic efficiently. One alternative currently being considered is to arrange for immigration officers to board visiting ships at the port of call prior to Bridgetown, and clear passengers there.

All of this is part of an overall plan to encourage more cruise lines to base their ships in Bridgetown.