Royal Caribbean is reaching out to the Latin America market with a series of winter 2023-24 sailings from Panama and Colombia. Rhapsody of the Seas will deploy to the region in early December, offering 7-night cruises to Caribbean destinations.
Rhapsody of the Seas to Sail From Panama, Colombia
Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, a Vision-class ship that launched in 1996, will soon deploy to Latin America for the first time in nearly a decade, offering onboard services and amenities geared to the Latin American community. The line announced its planned return to the region in 2022.
The ship, with a capacity for 2,400 guests, will begin sailing on December 2, 2023, offering embarkation in three ports, Cartagena, Colombia, and Colon and Panama City, Panama.
“We are happy to return to Latin America this year, where we will be until April 2024 with an adventure that allows our guests to enjoy a great vacation without having to travel to the United States or have a Visa,” said Alberto Muñoz, associate vice president of Latin America and the Caribbean at Royal Caribbean International.
“We have adapted our service offering to the preferences and needs of the Latin market, from more Spanish-speaking crew, more dancing options, and extended hours at Adventure Ocean, the children’s space, during the night,” added Muñoz.
The ship’s 7-night Southern Caribbean cruise, roundtrip from Colon, Panama, will call at Cartagena, Columbia; Willemstad, Curacao; Kralendijk, Bonaire; and Oranjestad, Aruba. Cruises departing from Cartagena will visit Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; and Colón, Panama.
Guests aboard Rhapsody of the Seas can look forward to enjoying Royal Caribbean experiences such as the Centrum, the seven-story atrium and entertainment space with bars, lounges, and retail shops; the adults-only Solarium Spa; and a wide range of activities in the Royal Theater, geared to the Latin American demographic, such as Latin dance lessons.
Dining venues onboard the ship include Royal Caribbean classics such as Chops Grille, Izumi, offering Asian dishes, and Giovanni’s Table, the line’s Italian restaurant. The ship’s main dining room and Windjammer buffet will be open for extended hours and feature cuisine from the region. The ship’s Schooner Bar will introduce a new drink menu, geared to the Latin American guests.
A variety of shore excursions and the line’s Private Journeys will be offered to guests, along with themed outings, including some geared to interactions for single cruisers and guests looking to meet new friends.
Destinations Enjoy Tourism, Cruise Rebound
The tourism industries in both Panama and Colombia are recovering well in the post-pandemic era, with the countries citing overall vacation arrivals rising by 557% and 346%, respectively.
In Colombia, cruises have shown a particularly strong rebound, with ship calls increasing by 150% in 2022-23 compared to the previous year. The country has three main city cruise ports, in Cartagena, Santa Marta, and San Andrés, with Cartagena the largest.
Across the three main ports, the destination welcomed 219 ship calls from 34 cruise lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line, TUI Cruises, MSC Cruises, and Silversea Cruises.
However, the country has also seen increases in cruise activity in lesser-known destinations such as Bahía Solano, Coveñas, Leticia, Gorgona, Utría, and Urabá.
“These destinations received more than 1,650 passengers, with the presence of seven cruise lines and a total of 13 calls,” said Carmen Caballero, president of ProColombia.
ProColombia, the government agency in charge of tourism, has been involved in diversifying destinations to showcase the country’s natural wonders.
“This last season there has been an increase in cruise ship arrivals to other destinations that offer experiences related to ecotourism. That is good news for the country, because it allows us to strengthen the value chain of nature tourism,” added Minister Mendoza.
The Panama Cruise Terminal, in Colon, serves as the country’s main cruise port and is the gateway to Panama Canal cruises. While Rhapsody of the Seas will not transit the canal, two Royal Caribbean ships will offer Panama Canal sailings during the upcoming season.
There will be a November 21, 2023, voyage aboard Serenade of the Seas, from Los Angeles to Miami, and an April 8, 2024 cruise aboard Radiance of the Seas, from Tampa, Florida, to Los Angeles. Both cruises are 14 nights.