With the popular eastern Caribbean cruise destination of St. Maarten having one of its busiest months since the cruise restart, it’s a true sign that cruising is well and truly back. The port also recently had its busiest day with six ships docked.
Cruising is Back at St. Maarten
Since the pandemic hit and the cruise industry suspended operations in March 2020, it had a knock-on effect on Caribbean cruise ports, including Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The good news is that November 2021 was the busiest month since cruise ships have started returning to service as the port handled 75,572 cruise passengers.
“Cruise developments have been moving on an upward trend when looking at vessel arrival numbers and vessel occupancy at almost 65 percent,” Alexander Gumbs, PSG Chief Executive Officer (CEO), said.
St. Maarten has been an essential part of the cruise restart. Celebrity Millennium became the first cruise ship in the Americas to restart guest sailings on June 5 from the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facility.
The ship, operated by Celebrity Cruises, homeported at the island, making St. Maarten a hub of cruise activity. Ever since the Celebrity cruise ship, cruise lines have gradually brought vessels back into service, and during December, that trend will continue.
Gumbs added, “We are collectively looking at a local cruise sector rebounding after 21-months. For the 2021-2022 cruise season, we expect our numbers will increase as more people start to take cruises as travelers become more comfortable with stability in the cruise market. There is a lot as a destination to be grateful for, however, we must continue to abide by the public health and safety measures that are in place to protect us against COVID-19.”
On November 24, the port welcomed six cruise ships for the first time, including Sky Princess, operated by Princess Cruises, AIDAluna and AIDAdiva operated by German-based AIDA Cruises, and Marella Discovery operated by British-based Marella Cruises. There was also Explorer of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas, both operated by Royal Caribbean.
December is expected to be even busier and over the weekend of December 11 and 12, there are four vessels homeporting at St. Maarten. It’s the highest number of cruise ships in a single day using the port for turnaround operations.
“Let us continue to maintain high service level standards and provide our guests with memorable destination experiences as we move into the holiday season and as we welcome more than 2000+ homeporting guests over the weekend,” Gumbs stated.
The vessels include Star Flyer, Wind Surf, and Seabourn Odyssey that homeported on Saturday, December 11, and then MSC Seaview on Sunday, December 12. All the ships combined come to more than 2,000 embarkation guests.
Between June and December 2021, St. Maarten expects to receive approximately 200,000 cruise passengers. That number should increase further through 2021 as even more cruise ships make a comeback.