Puerto Rico is on its way to break cruise passenger records for the second time in three years, Tourism Co. executives said Thursday, during the 23rd annual Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCAA) Cruise Conference and Trade Show in San Juan.
Puerto Rico’s port of San Juan posted record passenger numbers in 2015 with the arrival of 1.5 million passengers. The port is now poised to break that record in the 2017-18 season with an expected 1.6 million visitors, with increased calls from Oasis-class ships plus the maiden season of MSC’s Seaside, said Ingrid Rivera Rocafort, Tourism Co. executive director.
That will represent an economic injection for Puerto Rico of some $240 million, she added.
Homeport passengers are also expected to grow, as Norwegian Cruise Line returns to homeport in San Juan, joined by other industry leaders such as Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity Cruises, plus several luxury cruise lines, she said.
“The cruise business, a vibrant industry sector for us, has posted 22 percent growth over the previous four fiscal years,” said Rivera-Rocafort, adding that the expansion of Pier 3 in Old San Juan was a key factor in luring “mega cruise ships” to Puerto Rico including the Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, the Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and soon to arrive the Harmony of the Seas.
Puerto Rico is the “number one homeport for cruise ships in the Caribbean and continues to be one of the most popular cruise destinations, attracting the world’s largest vessels,” she said.
Docking in Puerto Rico this year, include Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival and MSC Cruises. Puerto Rico is welcoming the arrival of Quantum-class vessels and will be a port of call for the 2016 winter season for several new ships such as the Carnival Vista and the world’s largest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, with 6,780 passengers that is scheduled to arrive in San Juan on Dec. 28. San Juan will also be the first Caribbean homeport for the Viking Cruises, with Viking Star sailing from October to April, she said.
Additionally, based on demand, new Puerto Rico shore excursions and day tours for cruisers have been developed to respond to passenger’s eagerness to explore the island.
The island is hosting the FCAA event this week, which starting in 2018, will be held in Puerto Rico permanently each year, Rivera-Rocafort confirmed. For this year’s event 100 industry executives representing 19 cruise lines will be engaging in business discussions with attendees for the four-day event, plus more than 750 delegates from tour operators and fellow Caribbean destinations
“We’re extremely satisfied with the results obtained from this convention. I’m honored that we’ve reached the highest attendance in recent years, which shows Puerto Rico’s appeal for all of the international delegates of the tourism industry,” she said.
In November, Puerto Rico will welcome more than 21,000 passengers arriving at the Old San Juan ports.