British Virgin Islands Disappointed Over Cruise Ship Cancellations

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The British Virgin Islands remains one of the busiest cruise destinations in the Caribbean, however, most ships visit during the busy winter season, while the summer period usually sees a drop in cruise arrivals. If one of those ships drops out, it will significantly impact the local economy. 

In April 2024, Norwegian Cruise Line announced it would cancel several calls by Norwegian Breakaway between May and June. The cruise line stated it had done so based on recent guest feedback and to accommodate fuel optimization policies that have seen a far greater number of itinerary changes for the Miami-based cruise line. The cancelled dates include calls on May 16, 23, and May 30, as well as June 20 and June 27.

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: picture.factory / Shutterstock

The British Virgin Islands Ports has reacted to the cancellations, expressing its disappointment with the Norwegian Cruise Line decision and its impact on the local economy. The five calls by the 3,963-passenger Norwegian Breakaway would have brought around 20,000 cruise passengers to the islands and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. 

“This is a great impact, not just for the port, we understand that it is also challenging for our tour operators, our taxi drivers because they were counting on this call during the season,” BVI Ports Authority Marketing Manager Natasha Chalwell said to BVI News.

Losing five calls by a large cruise ship such as Norwegian Breakaway will indeed have a very negative impact on a cruise port that recorded record-high cruise arrivals since the end of the global pause in operations. While exact numbers are hard to get by, it is estimated that each cruise passenger would spend, on average, between $167 and $217 per call

The cancellation means that the British Virgin Islands, and its residents, would lose between $661,000 and $859,000 in cruise ship-generated revenue per call. This is not just money that is made by taxi drivers, but also by tour operators, restaurants, bars, and local shops.

However, the reasoning behind Norwegian Cruise Line’s cancellations could very well be based on something else entirely, the fact that five passengers failed to return to the ship in April.

For an island group such as the British Virgin Islands, the reliance on cruise ship tourism is significant. However, as stated before, that reliance focuses nearly exclusively on the winter season.

Losing Norwegian Breakaway is a Big Deal

Between May and October 2024, the British Virgin Islands expect to welcome just 30 cruise ship calls. Of those 30 calls, six are by Norwegian Breakaway, not counting the five calls that have been cancelled already by Norwegian Cruise Line.

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Ship in the Caribbean
Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock)

Should NCL decide to also cancel the remaining six calls, the port would lose eleven calls in total, for a possible loss of over 9 million US dollars. 

While the Island’s government has been focused on bringing more cruise ships in during the off season, the cruise schedule is still largely seasonal. Starting in November, when the vast majority of cruise ships return from Europe and Asia and sail in the Caribbean again, the BVI will welcome 29 cruise ship calls, as much as the previous six months.

For December 2024, there are an additional 58 cruise calls. Again, Norwegian Cruise Line plays a significant role here. The cruise line has 23 calls scheduled over the entire year, which includes ships such as Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Prima, and Norwegian Viva.

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