Caribbean reopens to Cruiseliners

Photo by Alonso Reyes

26th November 2021

As the global economic recovery accelerates, Caribbean nations are positioning themselves to benefit from the return of cruise tourism to their shores.

In recent weeks, several countries have welcomed the return of cruise ships to their ports after the industry all but collapsed under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though some countries reopened for cruise tourism before others, the initial trickle of ships is growing into a stream.

On 11 November 2021, Port Kingstown in St Vincent and the Grenadines received its first cruise call since the MV Seaborne Odyssey docked in Grenadine waters during August. The MV Britannia is the first to visit the mainland since the pandemic halted cruise flows and is one of more than 224 calls scheduled in the coming months. Of these, some 14 ships are expected to make inaugural calls.

Similarly, the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) has disclosed that the country is to welcome 50 cruise ships at the five ports in the island in the months of November and December 2021.

PAJ CEO, Gordon Shirley, said the ships would visit ports in Ocho Rios in St Ann, Montego Bay in St James, Port Antonio in Portland, Falmouth in Trelawny, and Port Royal, Kingston, in the coming weeks. 

He also noted that the expanded berthing at the port in Montego Bay will facilitate larger cruise ships, with Jamaica targeting to receive four of the biggest cruise ships (Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, and Symphony of the Seas) ever to be built in 2022. 

“Cruise shipping is critical to the recovery of the tourism sector, and we are seeing a welcomed return of vessels with the recognition that Jamaica’s Resilient Corridors offer a safe environment for our visitors, tourism workers, and the general population,” said Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, as he hailed the growing demand for destination Jamaica and the success of efforts to reopen the tourism sector. 

In the past, the island has pulled in revenue of US$10mn over the winter season from cruise lines and their visitors. The Ministry of Tourism is currently projecting 200,000 cruise passengers, representing 110 calls between October 2021 and April 2022.

Meanwhile, St Kitts and Nevis has witnessed the simultaneous berthing of three cruise vessels at the expanded Port Zante for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. The 16 November calls of the Celebrity Equinox, Explorer of the Seas, and the AIDAperla to the port has been described by the Tourism Authority as “a major milestone for cruise recovery in St Kitts.”

In what was its inaugural call to the country, the AIDperla brought with it 1,666 visitors, while the three vessels brought approximately 4,500 persons to the shores of St Kitts. Tourism Minister Lindsay Grant called on stakeholders to understand the important work being done as the destination continues to work with its cruise line partners to offer a safe experience.

Just 263km away, Dominica has welcomed three cruise ships making inaugural calls to at the Woodbridge Bay Portsince the resumption of calls to the island in July 2021. 

The MV Enchanted Princess of Princess Cruises arrived on 14 November on what was the ship’s first of 10 scheduled calls to the island for the 2021/2022 cruise season. On 16 November, the MV Rotterdam of Holland American Line also made its inaugural call; bringing 1868 passengers to the island’s shore.

Dominica has received a total of 19 cruise calls as of 15 November 2021, bringing an estimated 10,818 cruise passengers to the island’s shores. Statistics up to 14 November show that some 4570 passengers have engaged in tours to the island’s tourism sites. 

Officials have announced that they are scheduled to welcome approximately 251 cruise calls during the 2021/2022 Cruise Season carrying a total of 355,973 cruise passengers. Of these, 12 ships will be making their inaugural calls to the island.

In Puerto Rico, the Royal Caribbean cruise line has announced that it will resume its regular schedule of stops at the Pan American Pier in Old San Juan. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) also revealed that the capital city’s main piers will also welcome Crystal Endeavor and Celebrity Apex cruises for their inaugural visits to the island.

“The visits, which these three vessels will be making between the months of November 2021 to April 2022, will have an economic impact initially estimated at around US$16mn,” said PRTC Executive Director Carlos Mercado Santiago in a statement.

Although doubts about the sustainability of cruise tourism persists amidst assertions of low passenger spend vis-à-vis stayover visitors and environmental degradation, the industry remains a mainstay of Caribbean countries desperate to get their economies going again.

This is a lead article from Caribbean Insight, The Caribbean Council’s flagship fortnightly publication. From The Bahamas to French Guiana, each edition consists of country-by-country analysis of the leading news stories of consequence, distilling business and political developments across the Caribbean into a single must-read publication. Please follow the links on the right-hand side of this page to subscribe, or access a free trial.