Despite five cruise cancellations due to protests in Puerto Rico last month, the passenger projection total for the destination for 2019 is still a staggeringly-high 1.8 million passengers.
Ed Carey, chief sales officer for Discover Puerto Rico, told TravelPulse the two factors that have contributed to Puerto Rico’s impressive cruise numbers are the amount of new ships visiting the destination coupled with President Donald J. Trump’s decision back in June to cancel all cruise ships to Cuba. Many of those ships were re-routed to Puerto Rico, said Carey.
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“[The Cuba cancellations] absolutely helps,” he said, “but there’s several new ships that are helping. The cruise industry is absolutely jamming right now. The number of boats that are in San Juan as their home port is higher than it’s ever been.”
Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) all have new ships heading to Puerto Rico.
The port in San Juan will be Celebrity Cruise’s Celebrity Edge’s first homeport, The ship is expected to complete 10 visits from 2019 to 2020, resulting in a projected economic impact of about $2.6 million.
Holland America Line’s MS Nieuw Statendam first arrived on the island back in December 26, 2018. There are seven scheduled visits in 2019, resulting in a projected $1.7 million in economic impact. The ship is also expected to make roughly eight visits to the island in 2020.
Disney Cruises will return homeporting to San Juan with Disney Wonder in 2020.
Lastly, back in June, Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, announced a new partnership between Norwegian Cruise Line and the Puerto Rico Ports Authority that will expand the San Juan port of entry and accommodate more ships and cruise lines.
On the excursions side, Dean pointed out that more than 119 tours are available in Puerto Rico, experiences that cannot be found anywhere else.
The partnership guaranteed the arrival of two large ships to the Island. The Norwegian Dawn first called to Puerto Rico in January, while the Norwegian Epic is expected to visit the island as early as this December.
But although Puerto Rico’s cruise numbers are staggerings as of late, the destination’s tourism industry representatives are still being cautious.
In fact, last week several Puerto Rico travel leaders, led by American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands Chapter and its President Ivan Soler, issued an open letter to the industry recently, urging cruise experts to tell their clients not to be scared off by the protests.
“To the cruise lines industry, we understand your concerns over safety,” according to the letter. “We can assure you that our tour operators and travel suppliers have the experience and knowledge to handle any kind of situation and can divert (if necessary) your clients to other areas and still offer a memorable experience in the destination.”
The protests in July followed the publication of nearly 900 pages of private text messages between now-former Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and his political inner circle in which they profanely insult women and gay people, and mock everyday Puerto Ricans, including Hurricane Maria victims.
According to Vox, after weeks of protests forced out Puerto Rico’s governor of two years, a replacement was sworn in Friday. However, several media reports indicate that his tenure may be short-lived.
For example, several critics proclaim the process by which his swearing-in occurred was unconstitutional. In fact, protesters have already taken to the streets calling for him to step down.
Puerto Rico’s Full letter to the Travel Industry
Dear fellow industry members, The world has witnessed history in the making the past weeks in Puerto Rico. Even though there were some violent events at the beginning of the manifestations, they stopped promptly and the world saw how our music, art and culture united us and became the center stage.
One of the best attributes of our beautiful island, Puerto Rico, is that even though it might be small in size, it’s very diverse and offers a wide variety of options appealing to everybody.
To the cruise lines industry, we understand your concerns over safety. We can assure you that our tour operators and travel suppliers have the experience and knowledge to handle any kind of situation and can divert (if necessary) your clients to other areas and still offer a memorable experience in the destination.
To the tourist, there is no better time to come and visit Puerto Rico. The Old San Juan, a World Patrimony since 1982 by UNESCO, is visited by many for its architecture, museums, gastronomy, old history and now the recent one…which makes our old town more relevant to experience than ever!
Now, there is much more about the island of enchantment to enjoy…rivers, mountains, caves, forests, bioluminescent bays, award-winning beaches, excellent gastronomy, zip-lining, dry forest, tropical rain forest, local products and much more! Our industry is eager and ready to continue offering our great service and provide you with the best experience so you can create a memorable vacation for your clients.