Caribbean Cruise Port Reaches Significant Passenger Milestone

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Antigua and Barbuda have reached a significant milestone in their tourism industry, welcoming the 500,000th cruise passenger of the year at St. John’s Harbour on May 9, 2024.

The historic event occurred in under five months, showcasing a rapid increase in cruise traffic compared to previous years.

Antigua Cruise Port’s Operation Manager Rawle Reynolds, highlighted the exceptional growth to the local media, saying, “In the years of being a cruise tourism destination, this is the first time at such a fast pace in the 4th month of the year that we’ve been able to reach 500,000 passengers at this time of the year.”

Heritage Quay, St. John, Antigua
Heritage Quay, St. John, Antigua (Photo Credit: Dennis MacDonald)

Antigua Cruise Port in St. John’s Harbour already received 496,000 passengers on 255 ship calls as of May 5 when Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Beyond and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky arrived on May 9. The two ships brought over 4,000 passengers, pushing the total number of visitors past the half-million mark.

Cynthia Jacobs Browne, officer-in-charge at Antigua Cruise Port, expressed her enthusiasm over the achievements, stating, “These numbers are extremely exciting for us. Every passenger represents an opportunity for a taxi driver, restauranteur, shop owner, or tour operator to promote the best of Antigua and to make a better living.”

She went on to say, “We are on track for a record-breaking year, and we could not be prouder of our team and our success at this point. Bookings for the summer season are also up, and we are on course to outperform last year’s numbers. We look forward to sharing more record-breaking news soon.”

Antigua Cruise followed its half-million passenger count with the May 10 arrival of NCL’s 2,402-passenger Norwegian Jade. Princess Cruises’ 3,080-passenger Emerald Princess will also arrive this month.

Antigua Sets Eyes on Historic Cruise Tourism Numbers

Antigua’s surge in cruise activity has brought in more than 105,000 more passengers and an increase of 42 calls compared to May 2023. It’s worth noting that Antigua welcomed just over 500,000 cruise passengers for the entirety of last year.

The port anticipates a record number of visitors by the end of 2024, with projections to welcome over 800,000 passengers through 309 regular port calls and 27 turnaround calls.

Antigua’s unprecedented growth includes homeporting P&O Cruises’ 5,200-passenger P&O Arvia, Scenic Group’s 100-passenger Emerald Sakara, Star Clippers’ 277-guest Royal Clipper two ships from the SeaDream Yacht Club fleet.

P&O Arvia in Antigua
Photo Credit: Antigua Cruise Port

Also attributing to the growth is the opening of the port’s new $30-million Oasis-class berth, which allowed P&O Arvia to homeport on the island. The largest ship to call Antigua home, the Excel-class ship also brings 1,800 crew members to the nation.

Read Also: Caribbean Nation Provides Updates on Cruise Projects

Earlier this year, the Antiguan government also announced it would begin developing Rat Island, north of St. John’s cruise terminal, as an extension of the Antigua Cruise Port. Rat Island will welcome small cruise ships and yachts, leaving the port’s Heritage Quay for larger cruise vessels.

The twin-island nation is also considering adding an entertainment and dining hub on Rat Island, similar to its offerings at Heritage Quay.

Although the development of a $100-million beach club, in partnership with Royal Caribbean International, was announced before the pandemic, it is uncertain if the private destination resort will be back on track in the near future. The beach club would be constructed at Fort James and be similar to the new beach club Royal Caribbean is building in Nassau, Bahamas, adding to Antigua and Barbuda’s thriving cruise industry.

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