The Caribbean is recovering strongly from the global pause in operations this year, with the upcoming winter cruise season becoming one of the busiest yet.
St. Maarten is one of the islands reaping the benefits of the cruise industry recovery effort. The island expects more than 1 million cruise ship passengers and well over 400 cruise ship calls.
With the expected visitor numbers climbing to record heights, the island is likely to surpass those seen in the record-breaking 2019 season. On top of that, the island will host one of the most luxurious cruise ships in the world, Ritz-Carlton’s Evrima, which set sail for the first time this week.
St. Maarten Expects Record Winter Season
In a press release earlier this week, the Port St Maarten Group expects to welcome over a million cruise ship passengers in the upcoming winter cruise season. The Caribbean as a whole has seen a remarkable recovery so far, one that St. Maarten is sure to follow.
The island has the ambition to grow into the number-one cruise destination in the Caribbean, a goal it hopes to achieve by offering a unique tourism product and focusing on its cultural heritage.
Acting Minister of Tourism Omar Ottley said: “It gives me extreme pleasure to say we are back. While we may have an opportunity to reach or even surpass our pre-COVID numbers, we cannot become complacent.
“The goal is to constantly increase our tourism product until we are ranked the number 1 cruise destination. This season we plan to diversify our tourism product and focus on our cultural heritage. The theme should be what makes us unique. Once we are able to highlight what makes us unique it becomes our job to share that uniqueness with the rest of the world.”
The winter season usually starts around the end of October and runs through the end of April. St. Maarten expects to welcome more than 400 cruise ships to its shores during this period. Starting in November, 50 calls will be made to the island bringing 133,000 guests.
Read Also: Things to Do in Philipsburg, St. Maarten During a Cruise
In December, the cruise industry will be operating at full steam, with 86 calls and 196,000 guests, and in January, there will be 89 calls bringing close to a quarter million guests, 230,000.
During the latter part of the winter season, it will get slightly less busy, with 67 calls and 157,000 in February, 68 calls and 159,000 guests in March, and 46 calls and 142,000 guests in April.
Caribbean Port Popular as Homeport
More cruise ships are also choosing the use St. Maarten as a homeport, in particular, luxury cruise ships taking advantage of the easy air connections from the major US and European airports.
“With one million cruise visitors forecast for the next six months, other than transit calls, we will now have seven cruise line brands homeport from Port St. Maarten this season, the most to date,” Port CEO Alexander Gumbs said.
Especially for smaller luxury cruise ships, a port such as St. Maarten is an ideal homeport. Two Ultra-luxury cruise lines are using St. Maarten as a homeport this year, Seabourn Ovation and the new Ritz Carlton cruise ship Evrima.
Ritz-Carlton’s new ultra-luxe cruise line started operations this week after significant delays that put the maiden voyage back several years. Evrima will operate several cruises from St. Maarten across the Caribbean to Barbados.
“I welcome the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection brand with open arms to our shores,” said Omar Ottley, Acting Minster of Tourism for St Maarten. “The ship offers a specific clientele to our country that goes with the saying quality over quantity. This is only the beginning of a fruitful relationship to come.”
The 228-suite Evrima is the first of three ships for the new brand, with additional vessels scheduled to sail in 2024 and 2025. Other ships homeporting in St. Maarten include Club Med 2, Sea Cloud Spirit, Sea Cloud I, Sea Cloud 2, and World Voyager.
In September, we reported how St. Maarten’s recovery had been steadily building this year. In the first eight months, the island welcomed 500,000 cruise ship passengers.
With the increase in traffic over the coming months and more ships homeporting, the island will eclipse this number before the end of January.