Royal Caribbean Becomes First to Restart Departures from San Juan

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Life is slowly returning to normal as the first cruise ships resume operations with San Juan, Puerto Rico, as its homeport. Explorer of the Seas will call the island home through April 2022.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship concluded its test sailing last week from the same port and will offer guests the opportunity to explore the Eastern and Southern Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean Brings Cruises Back to Puerto Rico

Cruises sailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, are back on the program as Explorer of the Seas becomes the first cruise ship since the worldwide pause in operations to homeport on the island.

The vessel concluded her test cruise last week, which sailed October 29-31. The cruise line sails on these test cruises to demonstrate to the Centers for Disease Control that the onboard health protocols operate as expected and ensure crew members and passengers are safe.

Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas
Photo Credit: Ceri Breeze /

The 137,308 gross tons, 3,282 passengers, Voyager-class cruise ship will be sailing week-long cruises to the Eastern and Southern Caribbean through the winter months and into spring.

Also Read: Cruises From San Juan: The Pros and Cons

Sailing every Sunday starting November 7, the vessel will give guests the chance to explore a variety of Caribbean islands. For the first cruise, the vessel sailed on an itinerary calling at Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, St Maarten, St Lucia, Barbados, and St Kitts. Other opportunities include a very Dutch cruise, calling at St Maarten, Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire, all in the Dutch Antilles.

A Welcome Return to Puerto Rico

The executive director of the Puerto Rico Ports Authority believes the return of cruise ships to San Juan, and specifically to homeport, is a welcome break for the island.

Port Authority Director Joel Pizá Batiz: “The visit of each cruise ship, beyond the significant boost to tourism and the local economy, represents a vote of confidence in our facilities and operations. This demonstrates that the efforts of the Government of Puerto Rico, the Ports Authority and other related agencies are being effective.”

Explorer of the Seas Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Rob Crandall /

The calls by Explorer of the Seas as well other cruise ships, such as Crystal Endeavour and Celebrity Apex, will have a significant economic impact, according to Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), Carlos Mercado Santiago:

“Puerto Rico offers a diversity of experiences and a great potential for growth, two of the many reasons why we continue to be an attractive destination for cruise lines in a region as competitive as the Caribbean region. The visits, which these three ships will be making between the months of November 2021 to April 2022, will have an economic impact initially estimated at around $16 million.”  

Back to Normal?

The return of ships to Puerto Rico as homeport marks a return back to normal for the islands, although significant health and safety restrictions remain in place. According to the Royal Caribbean website, guests need to count on substantial testing and vaccination requirements.

San Juan Cruise Terminal
Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive

If flying in from the U.S. vaccinated guests have no testing requirement to enter Puerto Rico. Unvaccinated kids aged 2-11 must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours before arriving at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan.

Worth Reading: Which Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships Have Resumed Operations?

All persons age two and above, flying in from an international country, regardless of vaccination status, must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours before arriving at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan.

This requirement is on top of the already strict vaccine mandates and testing procedures the cruise line ordinarily maintains. Nonetheless, it will likely not be a deterrent for those wishing to sail on a Caribbean Cruise, something that is finally close to home again for many Puertorriqueños.

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