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CTO hails return of Royal cruise ships

Published:Monday | May 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Chairman of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Rickey Skerrit has welcomed the decision by the US-based Royal Caribbean Cruise Line to re-introduce summer cruising to the region after indicating that no new ship build tonnage is slated for deployment in the Caribbean before 2014.

Skerrit, who is also the Tourism Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, told Parliament that it was with sadness and grave concern the region learnt that cruise liners indicated last year they were re-positioning their ships away from the region from 2012.

He said that for St. Kitts and Nevis as well as for some other neighbouring islands, the news last year of the withdrawal was devastating, to say the least.

Skerrit said that he and other Eastern Caribbean colleagues held talks with representatives of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association lobbying for business in general, and to explore ways to entice cruise lines to bring back summer ships to the Caribbean and to grow cruise arrivals in the Eastern Caribbean, where growth in arrivals overall has trickled almost to a halt.

He said that over the past year it had become clear that new global cruise deployment focus had shifted away from the Caribbean for 2012-2013.

Strategic deployment decisions taken by the lines, based on market expectations in 2010, are now being implemented. Back in 2010 the major lines saw fall off in demand for the Eastern Caribbean and new opportunity in Australia, Asia, South America, and Europe.

Even Alaska is having better sales than previously. This situation is compounded by the fact that no new ship build tonnage is slated for deployment in the Caribbean before 2014 while, as I said, some existing ships are being removed to other markets, Skerrit said.

He said that another significant reason for the weak summer deployment and slow growth overall in the Caribbean is that high fuel costs continue to force ships to sail more slowly over shorter distances in order to achieve optimum efficiencies.

The result is that destination ports in the south-eastern Caribbean, which are further away from a home port, are suffering a loss of business. The increased cost of air travel has also rendered sub-regional home-ports like San Juan and Bridgetown less attractive to cruise lines and less tonnage is now being based there.

But Skerrit said that in spite of the intense competition from global ports, and after months of relentless lobbying, it was with great pleasure that we learnt last week that Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has decided to return to summer cruising in our region.

They have decided to redeploy the Jewel of the Seas to the Caribbean from May to October 2013 to offer 25 sailings out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. This decision will result in 16 additional calls to Port Zante during the summer of 2013, bringing over 33,800 guests.

The Tourism Minister said that the Royal Caribbeans Adventure of the Seas is planning to return for the winter 2013-14 season to bolster Royal Caribbeans offerings from San Juan.