The Caribbean Is Open at the FCCA Cruise Conference & Trade Show in in Mérida, Mexico
The nearly 1,000 attendees and 100 cruise executives gathering at the FCCA Cruise Conference & Trade Show, the largest cruise tourism conference and trade show, have a clear message-the Caribbean is open!
With many of the attendees hailing from the over one million square miles throughout the Caribbean, they seek to remind the decision-making cruise executives that about 90 percent of the nearly 100 ports in the Caribbean are open, fully operational and welcoming thousands of cruise passengers every day on hundreds of itineraries, and affected destinations are showcasing their progress and new products.
“Now is more important than ever for destination stakeholders and cruise executives to come together,” said Michele Paige, president of the FCCA.
“With many of these destinations relying on cruise tourism as a lifeblood of their economy, it is crucial to not only work together to relay the message that most of the Caribbean is ready to welcome passengers, but also to display all the work impacted destinations have done and are doing to rebound and rebuild better than ever.”
According to Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation and event participant, “Most of the Caribbean was untouched” by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. For those that were, “We are encouraged that recovery is happening so quickly in affected areas, thanks to widespread support efforts, and the strength and resiliency of people across the Caribbean…We expect virtually every destination to be up and running in coming weeks.”
The destinations are certainly up and running at the event, spotlighting their unique products-ranging from mountains and waterfalls to forests and deserts and culture and cuisine influenced by the Dutch, French, Spanish, British and a Creole mix of it all, while sharing year-round great weather, friendly people and spectacular beaches leading into the Caribbean Sea famous for its crystal-clear, turquoise water.
Destination representatives are working with the cruise executives and stakeholders throughout a series of meetings, workshops and networking and promotional opportunities, taking advantage of the forum to not only highlight the abundant, untouched, world-renowned tourism products, but also to showcase the recovery efforts of the few affected destinations.
St. Maarten is celebrating its two cruise berths expected to be ready by November 1 and Royal Caribbean’s commitment to return by the end of November, along with the destination’s new Rockland Estate eco-park, which is opening in November and exhibiting at the event with the St. Maarten delegation.
Rockland Estate will feature the world’s steepest zip line, the Flying Dutchman, launching riders down Sentry Hill at 56 mph and dropping 1,050 feet over a distance of 2,630 feet; the Soualiga Sky Explorer chairlift, a four-passenger chairlift transporting riders to an upper deck encircling and providing 360-degree views from the mountaintop, one of St. Maarten’s highest points at 1,115 feet; Emilio’s Restaurant, offering food and entertainment; and the Emilio Wilson Museum, housed in a restored plantation house built in the 1700s and depicting what life was like on a plantation-the customs, traditions, lifestyle and stories of St. Maarten. Additional attractions, including the Sentry Hill Zip Line and the Schooner Ride, are scheduled to open in early 2018. The project has the backing and investment of Carnival Corporation, a local government pension fund and a local bank, NIBanc, as well as equity from Rain Forest Adventures.
“We are all very excited for the upcoming opening of the attraction,” said David Candib, vice president of development & operations for Carnival Corporation and event participant. “It has been an over seven-year long process to reach this exhilarating phase.”
St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands are also touting a return by Royal Caribbean, with Adventure of the Seas calling the island on November 10 and bringing the first cruise passengers since Hurricane Irma. In partnership with the government of the US Virgin Islands, Royal Caribbean also has committed to undertaking the restoration of Magens Bay, one of St. Thomas’ most popular tourist attractions.
With power and water to the island fully restored and most downtown shops, restaurants and bars and tour operators fully operational following hurricanes Irma and Maria, passengers will be able to experience a diverse and extensive array of dining, shopping and activities.
“We are very excited to get back home to our friends in St Thomas,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “The Caribbean is our family, having cruised there for nearly 50 years, and the long-standing relationships created in all this time are unwavering. We are committed to doing everything we can to help, and proud to support the restoration of the iconic Magens Bay.”
“As we move forward from September’s historic storms, we are laser-focused on improving and enhancing the overall tourism product, and creating an environment that stimulates economic growth and employment for our residents,” said USVI Governor Kenneth Mapp.
Puerto Rico, which has already operated turnaround calls of Adventure of the Seas, is displaying its current and ongoing recovery. Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is fully operational, and Old San Juan, where ships dock, “looks completely fine,” according to Adam Goldstein, president & COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and chairman of the FCCA. He also said that El Morro fortress, which has survived five centuries, seems as strong as ever, and pointed out that with more than 80 hotels open, there is adequate hotel capacity for the passengers who add on a pre- or post-cruise stay.
By December 1, Royal Caribbean’s scheduled cruises to San Juan, St. Maarten and St. Thomas will operate as planned, including visits from Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, carrying nearly 6,000 visitors every week.
The Tortola Pier Park, the British Virgin Islands’ major cruise destination, is also displaying its quick recovery, with a partial reopening of the facility slated for November 1, followed by a Christmas celebration on December 22 and 23 and a restoration campaign letting the public know that the park’s efforts will continue.
“We are sending a clear message to our customers, partners and shareholders that yes, Tortola Pier Park and the BVI has been affected by two major hurricanes, but our story does not end there,” said Meslyn Allan, Leasing & Marketing Manager of Tortola Pier Park Ltd. “We are diligently working closely with the Government of the Virgin Islands and the BVI Ports Authority to ensure a speedy restoration to the facility. Our motivated staff and tenants are eager and ready to once again welcome our valued customers and cruise partners to Tortola Pier Park and we will do so with revitalized passion and strength, continuing our story of being one of the premier cruise and shopping facilities in the Caribbean.”
Of course, the best way to help both affected and untouched destinations is to visit and enjoy the unparalleled experiences. “There is no better way to support the Caribbean than to go to the Caribbean,” said Donald, whose company currently has more than 60,000 passengers sailing on almost 20 ships in the region.