St. Kitts and Nevis now a leading cruise destination says Antigua official

Basseterre, St. Kitts (CUOPM) – A top tourism official in Antigua says that St. Kitts and Nevis is now a leading cruise destination in the OECS.

According to Antigua and Barbuda’s Caribarena, Head of Antigua and Barbuda’s Cruise Tourism Association, Nathan Dundas, recalled that a few years ago, Antigua & Barbuda was number one in the OECS in cruise tourism.

“However, the country has been surpassed by islands like St. Kitts & Nevis and St. Maarten,” Caribarena reported Dundas as saying.

Dundas said Antigua was one of the first ports to have four cruise ship berths designated to accommodate cruise ships in St John’s.

But vessels, he said, are passing Antigua and going to other destinations.

“We have been saying it for years… we have to grow with the industry. Cruise tourism is the fastest growing tourism industry in the world,” Dundas said. “There is no ifs and there is no buts about it, it’s the fastest growing and the most dynamic industry in tourism.”

The Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association head pointed out that St Kitts’ cruise tourism industry started in the 1990’s, long after Antigua & Barbuda, yet St. Kitts is predicting 700,000 passengers by the end of the year.

Antigua & Barbuda peaked in 2009 with 711,000 passengers, which showed that we had the capacity to grow, “but something happened along the line in terms of us keeping up that momentum that we built up over the years.”

Dundas said the cruise lines would be coming out with 26 new ships over the next five years, and the country should be ready to benefit from the multi-billion dollar industry.

The Caribbean, Dundas said, has about 40 percent of the cruise tourism market, with Antigua & Barbuda at the top of the game in terms of the numbers and getting and creating opportunities for the people to benefit from the industry.

Dundas said the industry has grown to a great extent over the years with the construction of the four berths and tour operators offering new attraction sites.

Unfortunately, however, according to Dundas, the Antigua and Barbuda did not grow its product as fast as the industry was growing, and other countries took note of what was taking place and capitalized on it.

Another Caribbean destination, the British Virgin Islands said it expects to capture approximately 400,000 passengers for this cruise season.

According to the BVI Ports Authority, during the last cruise season, the BVI was visited by over 359,000 passengers.

St. Kitts projects some 650,000 cruise passengers during the 2013-2014 season and more than 700,000 for 2014-2015.

With an estimated Fifteen new cruise ships will visit St. Kitts during the 2013/2014 cruise ship season.

The new ships include the 2,500-passenger Ida Bella and Aida Luna to the 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom, the 3,325-passenger Disney Magic, the 3,700-passenger Carnival Conquest, the 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic and the 4,941-passenger Norwegian Breakaway.

Other new ships are the 450-passenger Azamara Quest; the 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor; the Costa Mediterranea; the 2,076-passenger Legend of the Seas; the 3,013-passenger MSC Musica; the 624-passenger Nippon Maru and the 706-passenger Saga Sapphire;

The new ships will join the 3,838-passenger Adventure of the Seas; the 3,597 passenger Azura; the 3,700-passenger Carnival Valor; the 2,850-passenger Celebrity Equinox; the 3,030-passenger Celebrity Reflections; the 2,850-passenger Celebrity Silhouette; the 2,450-passenger Celebrity Summit; the 3,100-passenger Emerald Princess and the 3,840-passenger Explorer of the Seas.

Calls will also continue to be made during the 2013/2014 season by the 2,500-passenger Jewel of the Seas; the 1,627-passenger Maasdam; the 2,272-passenger Oceana; the 1,928-passenger Oriana; the 3,090 Queen Mary; the 1,506-passenger Thomson Dream; the 3,100-passenger Ventura and the 2,435-passenger Vision of the Seas.

Minister of Tourism, Sen. the Hon. Richard “Ricky” Skerritt said recently that St. Kitts’ 2013/2014 cruise ship season is going to be exciting with an estimated 785,000 passengers expected from 183 ship days.

“In other words, in a calendar year for the first time in our history we have passed about 130 in terms of ship days. We have gone up significantly by the number of ship days and that means that over the course of 365 days on average, every other day there will be a ship,” said Minister Skerritt.

“There will be 103 days when there will be one ship. There will be 49 days when there will be two ships, that’s also the largest number of days when we will have two ships in our history. There will be 22 days when we will have three ships in port, which means 2 at Port Zante and one at the Cargo Pier. There will be 6 days when we will have 4 ships and for the first time in our history, we are going to have 3 days when we are going to have 5 ships,” Skerritt said.

He also said his Ministry’s strategy has been to go out and do everything to bring business in the summer.

“So the summer ships, we are talking about six months of sailing, which brings business that adds to the numbers and keeps people in business year round,” said Mr. Skerritt.

During this year’s summer of 2013 (May to September) Port Zante, the 3,700 passenger Carnival Valor is making 21 visits, while the 2,500-passenger Jewel of the Seas makes 13 visits.

But according to the 2014 Summer schedule (May to September), four new ships will be joining the Carnival Valor and the Jewel of the Seas.

They are the 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom, the 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze, the 3,325-passenger Disney Magic and the 524-passenger Nippon Mau.

The Carnival Freedom and the Carnival Breeze will make five calls each, Disney Magic, two and the Nippon Mau, one visit, while the Carnival Valor will make 22 calls and the Jewel of the Seas, 15 calls.

Cruise calls to St. Kitts in the 2011-2012 season brought more than 629,000 passengers to St. Kitts’ Port Zante cruise terminal, up from half a million the previous season.

Projections for the 2013-2014 season call for an increase to 650,000 passengers and to more than 700,000 in 2014-2015.

In addition to increasing cruise passenger arrivals, the geographic markets are expanding, as well, with vessels hailing from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Annual cruise tourism expenditure also is up, increasing from $6.7 million in 2006 to $70.6 million in 2012, according to a study by U.S.-based research firm BREA. Average per-passenger spends doubled in the same period, to $108.90.

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