Cruise ship calls and passenger numbers are good indications that the cruise industry is rebounding, and Port St. Maarten has seen great growth in the first four months of 2022, already surpassing calls and visits for all of 2021.
This positive trend is great news not only for cruise lines, but also for the Caribbean communities that rely so heavily on tourism.
Great Numbers for First Quarter 2022 Despite Challenges
Thus far, from January through April, Port St. Maarten has welcomed 350,507 cruise guests who visited the destination via 282 cruise ship calls. In January the island received 92,491 guests and 88 ships; February 82,233 and 79 ships; March 116,773 and 72 ships; and April 59,010 and 43 ships.
In all of 2021, the destination received just 243,450 cruise guests and 383 cruise ship calls. Cruising only restarted in mid-summer, but still, the 2022 numbers are already well above last year’s cumulative visits.
This is despite ongoing COVID-19 challenges, including changing health and safety guidelines and early 2022 cancelations due to the Omicron variant surge.
More recently, high energy costs, supply chain issues, crew shortages, and tensions in eastern Europe have continued to create challenges for the cruise industry. With hurricane season set to begin on June 1, the Caribbean is now facing its traditionally slow summer season, but with optimism for the continued increase in cruise travel.
“Our performance has been positive,” said Port St. Maarten Group Chief Executive Officer Alexander Gumbs on May 5. “Occupancy onboard cruise ships have been slowly increasing as more people decide to take a cruise in the coming months.”
Furthermore, as the pandemic wanes, cruise ships are increasing capacity.
“In comparison with figures for the first quarter of this year, cruise ship occupancy levels were hovering around 45 per cent, but we have been experiencing an average of above 75 per cent, and currently some vessels are already nearing 100 per cent occupancy,” Gumbs explained.
“By August 2022, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), all cruise lines who are members of CLIA should have their ships back in operation. This is also good for St. Maarten as it can translate into more cruise ship calls to the island in the coming months leading into the 2022-2023 high season.”
Cruises’ Impact in the Caribbean
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has also commented on the resumption of guest operations and its growth in the Caribbean. In the association’s Cruise Industry 2022 Outlook Report, CLIA stated:
“Cruise tourists, and the money they spend, create jobs and opportunities for local communities around the world. Every 24 cruisers create one full-time equivalent job. Cruisers spend an average of US$750 per passenger in port cities over the course of a typical seven-day cruise. Six in 10 people who have taken a cruise say that they have returned to a destination that they first visited via cruise ship.”
While in port, cruise passengers not only spend money on retail purchases, but also on shore tours, drinks, and dining, along with transportation for attractions further afield.
All of these expenditures add up quickly to an enormous economic impact on local port communities, which equates to higher employment and greater financial stability.
Return to Service Continues
More than 75% of cruise ships have already returned to service, taking guests to destinations around the world. CLIA forecasts that nearly 100% of cruise ships are projected to be in operation by August 2022.
With the start of the Alaska cruise season in the past week, Carnival Cruise Line has returned all its ships into service, and Royal Caribbean International projects that all its ships will be sailing by the end of May.
CLIA ocean-going member cruise lines are projected to debut 16 new cruise ships in 2022, adding even more sailing capacity to popular destination markets, and bringing additional opportunities to travelers eager to set sail once again.