PORT ST. MAARTEN – There were seven cruise vessels in port on Saturday, marking another busy day for the destination where cruise tourism is concerned. Three of the vessels in port, namely, Star Flyer, Wind Surf, and Seabourn Odyssey were picking up passengers which is part of the homeporting services that the island offers.
The vessels in port on Saturday were Silver Spirit, Carnival Fascination, Seabourn Odyssey, Koningsdam, Freedom of the Seas, Star Flyer and Wind Surf which represented a combined total in over 16,000 passengers and crew. In terms of passengers, there were close to 12,000 in port on Saturday and over 4,300 crew.
The seven vessels were all moored at the two cruise piers at the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facility.
There has also been a noticeable increase in demand for cruise ship crew changes. A group of 50+ crew members from one cruise line flew in to the destination last week to join their vessel. Port Management says this once more signifies the importance of the destination to the industry.
Port St. Maarten Management is very pleased with how Fly & Cruise Home porting has taken off for the high 2018-2019 cruise season. A number of small cruise lines are using Port St. Maarten as their home port of choice in the north eastern Caribbean.
St. Maarten has cemented itself as a homeport destination. It is testament to the appeal of cruising from St. Maarten as cruises out of the destination offer the perfect way to experience the warm hospitality of the Region.
Emphasis has been placed on luxury cruise brands that translate into more spending power of passengers based on their higher disposable income levels. This also shifts the destination from quantity to quality cruise tourism therefore increasing the destination value due to attracting other high-end brand lines.
Homeporting generates more airlifts in and out of the destination; brings additional business for local service providers; and creates the potential for pre- and post- cruise extension visits.
Statistics show that 20% of the passengers who fly to a destination to take a cruise also take a pre or post vacation stay. They spend about two days after they arrive on the island before taking their cruise and do the same upon returning from their cruise.
The guests have some time prior to boarding the homeported vessel and also upon their return from their cruise to enjoy the benefits of the destination. The financial economic gain will trickle down to the following areas: transportation services sector such as taxi’s and car rentals, vessel provisioning from food and beverage wholesalers; passengers arriving and departing through SXM Airport fees and economic activity for businesses there; aircraft fees for SXM Airport; dockage and passenger fees for Port St. Maarten; fueling services; hotels and villa rentals; restaurants and entertainment; duty-free shopping retailers; cruise ship personnel shopping for goods and services while homeported; visiting attractions and amenities available and taking tours/excursions; advertising and marketing of the cruise destination; opportunity created for conversion from cruise passenger becoming a stay-over guest, and other businesses that provide ancillary services to the tourism sector.
With SXM Airport working to bring United States Customs Pre-clearance to the destination, this will be a plus and would stimulate connectivity and attract new businesses as there would be a seamless travel-cruise experience to and from the destination for the traveler.
Port St. Maarten’s strategic long-term sustainable approach calls for an investment in a permanent homeport terminal that can handle vessels carrying 1500+ cruise passengers according to cruise market demand, however this can only materialize through the cooperation with key local stakeholders.
The current terminal building being used is a temporary structure that is air-conditioned and can handle up to 1,000 guests during peak hours; 12-check in desks and a luggage screening machine; bar and restaurant serving drinks and snacks on sale for passengers; VIP section with seating for 50-80 passengers; Wi-Fi; facilities for the disabled; and much more.
The terminal is able to store more than 1200 pieces of luggage and is located nearby the cargo container storage area.
The permanent facility would be better equipped and structurally secure to withstand hurricanes and meet the growing demands of Fly & Cruise homeporting. The construction of a permanent facility would be carried out in close consultation with cruise line partners to ensure the design and logistical requirements are in line with new-cruise ship builds with an outlook of 15-20 years from now.
St. Maarten is also seeking to become the lead cruise ship provisioning port.
Port St. Maarten has provisioned several cruise ships with dry and frozen goods sourced from local food wholesalers, and the operations were carried out in an efficient manner showcasing the port’s ability to adapt based on varied arrival times and still deliver quality service and maintain operational excellence.
Cruise ships carrying 3000-5000+ guests and crew consume large amounts of food everyday over a seven-day cruise.
Port St. Maarten has developed a strategy to increase volume related to cruise ship provisioning with the objective of becoming the lead cruise ship provisioning sea-port in the near future which would be very beneficial to the local economy protecting employment and also creating additional employment opportunities within the food wholesale sector.
Packaging from goods and products locally purchased and delivered to the vessels, are disposed of by a third-party port concessionaire who directly works with the cruise lines.
St. Maarten’s international appeal as a cruise destination, along with business services offered in the maritime logistical sector and in the food supply area, are the assets allowing the island to gain from cruise ship provisioning. This would further enhance the port’s operational excellence platform bolstering more business which is key to future growth for the island.