Everyone was busy at Owen Roberts International Airport on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for the Islands’ First ever royal visit from His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Red carpets were unrolled, and red, white and blue blunting as well as flags – union jacks and Cayman Islands flags side by side, fluttered in the soft afternoon breeze round the front of the smart new airport building that would be officially opened by the Prince upon his arrival.
Round that back of the airport, the press corps, both local and international, got ready with their cameras as Government officials lined up along the edge of the red carpet to greet the Royal Couple, who were all set to travel through all three Islands as the final part of their Caribbean Tour.
The moment finally came as the big, grey Royal Airforce airplane touched down, taxied around and came back for a ‘water-cannon’ salute, as gleaming red fire trucks, looking like two red sentinels either side of the plane, shot an archway of water in a huge arc over it as it taxied through.
The door opened and out stepped HRH Prince Charles, looking relaxed as he made his way down the steps with the Duchess following closely behind. At the bottom, the very first person to greet the royal couple was not any big – named politician, but a young Cayman schoolgirl, who held out a beautiful bouquet of flowers to the Duchess who stooped to gather them and smiled at the girl.
The Prince followed a long line of dignitaries, shaking hands and greeting. By his expression he seemed to know who they all were. First he greeted H.E The Governor, Martyn Roper, then the Premier, Hon Alden McLaughlin. Everyone smiled. Everyone seemed to shine. Perhaps nobody knew exactly what to expect, but judging from people’s expressions, the Prince has a quiet way of putting people at their ease while making them feel that they, rather than he, were the VIP, and the event was really in their honor instead.
He came to the Speaker, Hon McKeeva Bush and his wife, and shook hands warmly. Later, Mr. Bush told me that the Prince knew who he was, and about his long political career, “He knew I hadn’t always been the Speaker,” he said.
It was time for the Royal Salute from the RCIPS, before the Royal Couple were taken around to the front entrance of the new airport building. Inside they met with many more dignitaries and a young boy too, before going up onstage to listen to speeches from Hon. Moses Kirkconnell and Hon Alden McLaughlin, about the new extension to ORIA. Then they went outside to greet more people, who waved their flags as they watched HRH unveil the plaque, as he declared the smart new terminal open.
Both of the Royals had a really packed day on Thursday, with the Prince flying first to Cayman Brac, where he opened the new swimming pool, before flying to Little Cayman where he visit Little Cayman Marine Institute. The Duchess remained on Grand Cayman, where she officially opened the Jasmine Villa Hospice and visited the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre and George Town Primary School. In the Afternoon both of them went to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, which the Queen opened in 1994. They were especially interested in the lovely new Children’s Garden there, which they opened, before finishing their Cayman visit with a big cultural celebration at Pedro Castle.