Royals delight crowds in whirlwind tour

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, charmed crowds across the Cayman Islands on a whirlwind tour of the British Overseas Territory.

The royal couple opened four new facilities and visited all three islands in little over a day as they concluded their Caribbean tour in style.

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Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said the visit reaffirmed the strong relationship between the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom.

Charles and Camilla touched down in Grand Cayman on the Royal Air Force’s jet ‘Voyager’ around 4 p.m. Wednesday and were immediately involved in a ceremony to open the newly renovated Owen Roberts International Airport terminal.

At press time Thursday, the couple were in the midst of a farewell reception at Pedro St. James castle, having performed a breathless schedule of official engagements.

Between them, Charles and Camilla took part in official opening ceremonies for the airport, the new swimming pool on Cayman Brac, a new Children’s Garden at the Botanic Park, and the new Jasmine hospice facility in Grand Cayman.

Everywhere they went, crowds showed their support by waving Cayman and British flags and presenting the couple with flowers and balloons.

Sister Islands

Prince Charles, who visited Grand Cayman as a young naval officer in 1973, travelled to Cayman Brac Thursday morning on a Cayman Airways plane. The prince took time to meet and greet residents on Cayman Brac before cutting the ribbon to open the new sports centre’s swimming pool.

Eight students then swam two laps in front of Prince Charles, the first swim in the newly-opened pool. Among the young swimmers was 14-year-old Keira Bodden. After her swim, Prince Charles approached Keira and asked her how she liked the pool.

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“He asked me how the pool was and how long I’ve been swimming for – I’ve been swimming for 10 years – and he told me that I did a good job swimming and he asked me if the pool needs to be heated,” Keira said. “It was exciting.”

The prince and his entourage then travelled by air to Little Cayman, where he toured the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, met schoolchildren, residents and visitors, and learned about the centre’s research.

During his visit, CCMI officials announced their Healthy Reefs campaign, which aims to bring attention to the coral restoration and research the institute is doing.

Prince Charles shakes hands with Charli Foster, as her dad Woody Foster looks on, at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman on Thursday. – Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

Back to Grand Cayman

The prince got a ride in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s new state-of-the art helicopter as he was whisked back from the Sister Islands to be greeted by a crowd of schoolchildren as the chopper touched down at Clifton Hunter High School.

From there, it was a short trip to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park where he was welcomed by a large and enthusiastic crowd. At the park, he took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new Children’s Garden, and met Peter the blue iguana, as he learned about the revival of the endangered species in Cayman.

Head keeper Alberto Estevanovich described Peter as the park’s “rock star” and let the prince pet the animal, telling Charles that he had shown the iguana to millions of visitors over the years and explaining how the park’s breeding and conservation programme works. Charles remarked on the iguana’s mild blue tinge and asked about its tag.

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During the prince’s visit to the park, which was opened by his mother on her visit to Grand Cayman in 1994, Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour recalled that in 1973, when he was just 4 years old, the prince had passed his house during his first visit here.

Seymour thanked Charles for his work highlighting the importance of marine and terrestrial environments, and also announced that Cabinet has approved draft instructions to expand marine parks across the Cayman Islands.

Then, it was back to the helicopter for the prince, to make an engagement at The Ritz-Carlton hotel with police officers who helped with disaster relief in Turks and Caicos following the hurricane in 2017.

Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla stand among Caymanian dignitaries at the opening ceremony of Owen Roberts International Airport on Wednesday. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Camilla’s day

Camilla, meanwhile, had embarked on her own tour of Grand Cayman. A crowd of onlookers and dignitaries greeted the Duchess of Cornwall at her first stop on Thursday, which was the ceremonial opening of the Jasmine hospice care facility, off West Bay Road. The duchess, dressed in a white ensemble, shook hands with children and greeted members of the community who made the construction of the facility possible.

After that, she dropped in at Estella’s Place in Crown Plaza in George Town to learn about the work that the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre does to protect victims of domestic violence. Estella’s Place is named in memory of the late Estella Scott-Roberts, the founder and the first executive director of the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre.

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During her visit, the duchess participated in a roundtable discussion with teens, hearing about the many activities and self-help initiatives they were involved in at the Teen and Young Adults after-school programme at Estella’s Place. She also cut a cake to celebrate the after-school programme’s second anniversary, and signed her name on the centre’s blackboard. She listened attentively as the teens sang a song they had written about their experiences and how the programme had helped them.

Natalie Baldwin, after-school programme coordinator, said the duchess’s visit means a lot and would help the facility gain exposure.

“We have been around for two years and we want people to know about Estella’s Place and the services we offer to help at-risk teens. We have grown, since starting with five teens, now there are 50. We really need to expand to help the youths of the island. They are our future,” Baldwin said.

Schoolchildren wait to see the Duchess of Cornwall. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

At George Town Primary School, the duchess was welcomed by smiling children waving flags, as the Pan ‘n’ Riddim steel pan band played in the background. Accompanied by Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Duchess Camilla made her way to the school’s Performing Arts Auditorium, where students presented a medley of songs.

The duchess presented George Town Primary School principal Sharon Campbell-Danvers with some children’s books, which she said were her favourite.

At the school, Camilla, who was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Year 3 student Matthew Brown, also met head boy Michael Grizzle and head girl Satima Berry.

Charles and Camilla reunited later Thursday evening at Pedro St. James castle where a reception was held in their honour. A large crowd attended the event, which was still in full swing at press time, with local exhibitors and musicians showing the royal party the best that Cayman has to offer.

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson received his MBE from the prince at the event, while Felicia McLean, director of operations and nursing at Jasmine, and athlete Andrew Smilley, were presented with Certificates and Badges of Honour.

The royals were scheduled to depart Cayman around 8 p.m. but were running a little behind schedule.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, at the Jasmine Villa inauguration – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Everywhere they went during the visit, Charles and Camilla were greeted by enthusiastic crowds.

At the airport on Wednesday around 300 well-wishers gathered in front of the distinctive glass arch of the new terminal building to pay their respects and witness the unveiling of a plaque to open the airport.

Among those waiting at the airport Wednesday was a small group of demonstrators in red shirts, who stood on the north side of the vehicle lane with signs saying such things as ‘Hungry, homeless, helpless, hopeless’, and ‘Stop systemic genocide’.

Emily Scott, 11, a Cayman Prep student, was one of a handful of schoolchildren who got to meet the couple. She said she was thrilled when Prince Charles shook her hand.

“It was just very exciting,” Emily said. “It was a huge honour.”

She said she expected to remember the moment, “my whole life”.

Speaking during the airport ceremony, Premier Alden McLaughlin told the royal couple, “Thank you for your graciousness in accepting our invitation to not only visit our beautiful Cayman Islands, but also for agreeing to officially reopen our airport here in Grand Cayman.

“Your presence affirms the strong relationship between the U.K. and the Cayman Islands.”

For more coverage of the royal couple’s visit, see Monday’s Compass.

Camilla receives a bouquet of flowers from a young student during the opening of Jasmine Villa. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay