The World’s Largest Cruise Ship Returns to San Juan, Puerto Rico

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The biggest cruise ship in the world, Symphony of the Seas, arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico yesterday, August 26 on what was her first time to call in the port since she resumed sailing earlier this month. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship was the first in the Royal Caribbean fleet to include San Juan in her itinerary, although the call was not planned as such.

The ship arrived early in the morning in the port with around 1,300 passengers on board, of which most of the guests had been fully vaccinated, while those under 12 had to be tested extensively before being allowed onboard.

Symphony of the Seas, the First and the Biggest

Symphony of the Seas became the first in the Royal Caribbean fleet to resume sailings to Puerto Rico since the cruise line halted operations early last year. The vessel arrived from its stop in St. Maarten, in the Dutch Caribbean, and is now on her way back to Miami.

Symphony of the Seas in San Juan
Symphony of the Seas in San Juan (Photo Credit: Puerto Rico Port Authority)

The vessel had been scheduled to call in St Kitts and Nevis, but the local government canceled this call after uncertainty about vaccinations and testing protocol:

Tourism, Transport and Ports Minister, Lindsay Grant:

“The government of St Kitts and Nevis is trying to find a delicate balance between the economics and the health of our country.  For the month of August, therefore, the calls of the Allure and Symphony of the Seas have been canceled.”

The world’s largest cruise ship arrived Thursday in San Juan, after almost 17 months of absence of Royal Caribbean ships in Puerto Rico with guests. The vessel can hold an impressive 5,518 guests, but due to the restrictions, the 228,081 gross tons Oasis-class cruise ship is only sailing with about 1300 guests on board for this cruise.

Symphony of the Seas is not the first cruise ship to arrive back in historic San Juan. Carnival Cruise Line’s newest addition Mardi Gras arrived in the port only a few weeks ago on her maiden voyage.

Symphony of the Seas in San Juan
Symphony of the Seas in San Juan (Photo Credit: Puerto Rico Port Authority)

Symphony’s Confusing Restart

The biggest cruise ship in the world also has perhaps the most confusing itinerary in the world. The cruise ship was affected by the policy change that the United States Virgin Islands implemented a while ago that meant the cruise line had to change its onboard policies to a fully vaccinated status only, and the government of St. Kitts and Nevis canceled the calls for Symphony and Allure of the Seas.

As its stands, Symphony of the Seas is scheduled to arrive in Miami on August 29. Royal Caribbean also canceled Falmouth and Nassau for next week’s cruise and replaced those ports with Cozumel and Costa Maya. In the meantime, Jamaica has announced it will be entering a series of lockdowns that could affect cruise schedules even more.

The situation is telling for the current times. Cruise lines have to deal with many different governments, rules, protocols, but most importantly, changes. The cruise industry can be sure that these changes will continue to come as long as the pandemic continues.

For ports like San Juan in Puerto Rico, the industry remains an integral part of the local economy, and a ship like Symphony of the Seas makes a substantial financial impact, especially once she will resume sailing with full ships by the end of the year.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said earlier this month that Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration visits in the next two years alone would deliver an estimated 300,000 passengers and generate some $28 million for the island’s tourism sector, which represents nearly 7% of its economy.

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