Bermuda’s Cruise Industry Thrives Despite 2023 Challenges

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Cruising to Bermuda has shown to be more popular than ever in 2023, despite significant challenges the Atlantic island had to overcome this year. With just over half a million visitors sailing to the island this year, despite a particularly active hurricane season and the lingering effects of the pandemic, the future looks bright for Bermuda.

An increase in calls from Norwegian Cruise Line and the Royal Caribbean-owned vessels, as well as various ships being directed away from the Baltic, had a significant impact on arrivals. Overall, the island welcomed more cruise ships to its shores, and more cruise passengers than ever.

A Promising Start Transformed by Unforeseen Circumstances

In a report from Wayne Furbert, the Minister of Transport for Bermuda, Bermuda has shown to be an increasingly popular destination for cruises sailing from the east coast of the United States, as well as a popular call for cruise ships sailing on transatlantic cruises.

2023 began with high expectations for Bermuda’s cruise ship season. Following a promising outlook shared in 2022, the initial projections estimated 223 scheduled cruise ship calls, bringing approximately 559,000 passengers. A substantial 28% increase from the previous year, with a cumulative economic impact of $200 million.

However, the year unfolded with unexpected challenges. The region was hit by an unprecedented hurricane season, disrupting the planned itineraries of many cruise ships. Despite these setbacks, Bermuda’s cruise sector showcased remarkable adaptability.

Cruise Ships in Bermuda
Photo Credit: SebZet / Shutterstock

“The frequency and close proximity of hurricanes to our area directly affected the planned cruise itineraries, causing disruption to the anticipated schedule of cruise ships.”

“While this hurricane season was exceptionally active, we do recognize that annual hurricane seasons tend to have some impact on the cruise season, though not to the extent experienced this year,” Furbert said.

Hurricane season led to 37 cancellations from cruise ships, ensuring that the initial target of 559,000 cruise ship arrivals came in slightly slower. The island is now set to welcome approximately 539,127 passengers by year’s end. This figure, while slightly below projections, still represents a significant achievement given the circumstances.

Steady Growth and Revised Projections

The steady arrivals to Bermuda came down to several different factors. Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean increased their scheduled calls, with NCL starting to explore the possibility of sailing to Bermuda during the winter and shoulder season.

Together, the two cruise companies were responsible for a total of 171 scheduled calls. Norwegian Cruise Line called to Bermuda a total of 84 times, while the smaller brands owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, such as Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises, sailed to Bermuda 16 times.

Cruise Ships in Bermuda
Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock

Royal Caribbean International had a total of 50 calls to Bermuda this year, while Celebrity Cruises had an additional 21 calls to the island. 

The fact that cruise lines changed itineraries due to a limited number of berthing possibilities in the Baltic Region also proved to have a positive impact on Bermuda. Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Scenic, Silversea, Saga Cruises, and Azamara Cruises all added in to a total of 233 calls to Bermuda in 2023.

Bermuda Recovers and Surpasses Historical Numbers

Although these numbers pale in comparison to some major cruise ports in the Caribbean and the Bahamas, the progress that Bermuda has been making in welcoming cruise ships is significant. 

In 2017, the island experienced 161 cruise ship calls, bringing 418,049 passengers with them. In 2018, this number grew to 180 calls. However, even during the record-breaking year of 2019, when the cruise industry was operating at full strength, the island welcomed just 184 cruise ships to its shores, far short of 233 calls in 2023.

As for the economic impact that these calls have had on Bermuda, the numbers have been steadily increasing. In 2017, Bermuda’s cruise industry contributed $81 million to the local economy, a figure that steadily increased in the following years. In 2018, the economic impact rose to $148.4 million. In 2019, this number surged to $169.9 million.

In 2023, the cruise industry is estimated to contribute $221.5 million to the local economy of Bermuda, showcasing the importance of cruise ships to the island.

For 2024, between Hamilton, Kings Wharf, and the St. George Cruise Terminal, Bermuda already has 224 cruise ship calls scheduled throughout the year, a number that will more than likely increase over the coming months.

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