America Cruise Ferries, the company that operates the only commercial maritime connection between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, saw an influx of North American passengers during Easter Week, when the ship departed only from San Juan to the neighboring island nation.
Eric González, vice president of Marine Express — the Puerto Rico partner that manages the passenger and cargo ship service — confirmed that traffic was split “almost 50-50” between Puerto Rican and visiting tourists during the three trips out of San Juan that week.
“We’re going to be analyzing how the business goes out of San Juan, based on Easter and the upcoming summer season, to decide whether we stay here for good,” González said.
Earlier this year, America Cruise Ferries announced a schedule change for Easter and about 12 weeks in the summer between June, July, and early August, when it will not make its usual connection in Mayagüez.
Last year, America Cruise Ferries transported some 32,000 passengers during the summer months and expects traffic to increase by at least 35 percent as a result of the adjustment, this media outlet reported in January.
“Its likely that if it goes well here, we’ll have to be where the business is,” he said. “That decision will be made later on. But we already know that movement out of San Juan is much greater than it is out of Mayagüez in general.”
America Cruise Lines launched its maritime route in June 2011, splitting its service between Mayagüez and San Juan, offering passenger and cargo service at both locations. Last year, the company transported 96,000 passengers, 11,500 cargo containers and 15,500 vehicles, the executive confirmed.
Meanwhile, the company has seemingly put its plans to expand ferry services to other Caribbean islands on hold, something it announced early on.
“Plans always exist and we’re analyzing it to see whether it’s viable. If it is, we’ll move forward,” said González.
Fishing tourney to benefit Santo Domingo’s neediest
During a news conference aboard the America Cruise Ferries ship last week, company officials offered details of the 7th edition of its Open Fishing Tournament in benefit of some of the poorest communities in the Dominican Republic.
The event will take place April 18-20 in benefit of the Ferries del Caribe Foundation, which uses the proceeds from the event to build schools, homes and provide health services, food and clothing to thousands of adults and children, said Maribel Mas, vice president of the nonprofit.
“Marine Express matches the proceeds from the tournament dollar-for-dollar. Last year, the event generated $30,000 that became $60,000, which in addition to what we have collected in prior years, have positively affected about 200,000 people in the Dominican Republic,” she said.
This year, the bulk of the money collected will go toward building a school for physically and mentally challenged children in the Sabana Perdida sector in Santo Domingo. At present, the children receive services and education out of a small house, she said.
“We have already bought the land to build the school, we have the plans about 80 percent completed, and are now preparing the grounds to begin construction of the school, which we hope to finish in the next two years,” she said, of the school that could serve about 150 children.
Organizers have invited members of all yacht clubs in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to the event held at Casa de Campo Marina.