The British Virgin Islands (BVI) reached a new maritime milestone in 2023, experiencing a surge in cruise ship arrivals and passenger numbers.
A Year of Maritime Milestones
The British Virgin Islands Port Authority (BVIPA) has marked 2023 as a record-breaking year in its maritime operations, with a significant increase in cruise passenger arrivals.
This growth is seen at Road Harbour’s main cruise pier in Tortola, as well as rise in calls to the sister islands, notably from smaller, luxury cruise vessels and new cruise lines.
The BVIPA announced that cruise passenger arrivals skyrocketed to 720,392 in 2023, a 110% increase from 343,571 in 2022, surpassing the previous peak in 2016 and highlighting the Territory’s capability to accommodate a large number of visitors.
“The Authority’s achievements cement its status as a dependable and appealing port, both regionally and globally,” said Minister of Communication and Work responsible for Ports Hon. Kye Rymer. “This success is not merely a result of internal efforts but is also a testament to the steadfast dedication demonstrated through strategic collaborations with key partners like the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and the ongoing reinforcement of ties with cruise industry partners.”
The year saw a total of 354 cruise calls, with 232 at the Cruise Pier, exceeding the 2022 total of 263 calls. An additional 122 anchorage calls across the Territory were recorded across locations such as Red Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, and Virgin Gorda.
Akeem Pickering, managing director of the BVIPA, stated, “The record-breaking cruise passenger arrivals in 2023 demonstrates the BVI Ports Authority’s commitment to operational excellence, maritime efficiency and strategic collaboration with local and international cruise stakeholders.
“Our facilities, dedicated team and industry relationships have played a pivotal role in accommodating the increased traffic, demonstrating our capability to handle the demands of a thriving cruise industry,” Pickering added.
Strategic Collaborations and Future Prospects
BVI is poised to break more records in 2024, starting the year with notable milestones. January 14 saw the inaugural call for Virgin Voyages’ Valiant Lady at Road Town, marking the first inaugural call of the year and introducing the first new cruise line to the Territory.
This follows on the heels of Celebrity Cruises making its inaugural call at the end of December 2023, when new ship Celebrity Ascent graced the Tortola pier on December 20.
The diverse lineup of cruise lines scheduled to visit BVI in 2024 reflects the Territory’s growing appeal in the cruise industry. This includes names like P&O Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Viking Cruises, Marella Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Silverseas Cruises.
Notably, nearly 200 cruise ships are expected to enter BVI waters in the first quarter of the year alone.
Tortola’s Road Town
Most cruise ships visiting BVI make their call at Tortola’s Road Town, which is capable of accommodating two large cruise ships simultaneously.
Expanded in 2015 to host vessels up to 180,000 gross tons, the port can welcome nearly every type of ship, with the exception of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ship and its new Icon of the Seas, the largest ship in the world weighing in at around 250,000 gross tons.
Enhancing the cruise experience further, a new cruise complex, Tortola Pier Park, was constructed at the foot of the pier. This 80,000 square feet development boasts 50 shops and restaurants, offering a vibrant mix of retail and dining options.
Additionally, it provides ample space for land and boat tours to assemble, giving passengers convenient access to a variety of local experiences.