We attended Seatrade last month and got the scoop on what’s new in cruising, which we’ve covered both in this issue (page 16) and on recommend.com, but we also got the scoop on new developments in these three Caribbean destinations, as well as other destinations, which we’ve covered online.
Antigua & Barbuda
In 2016, Antigua & Barbuda received 658,000 cruise passengers, and, said Colin C. James, CEO of Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, during a sit down meeting at Seatrade, “by the 2019/2020 cruise season, we’d like to see 1 million passengers. Cruise tourism is very important to Antigua and Barbuda.” In fact, the destination is transforming its cruise tourism sector, with substantial updates to Port St. John’s in Antigua. By the end of 2017, it will add an additional berth to be able to accommodate Oasis-class ships; updates to the port area in 2016 made it possible to accommodate Quantum-class ships. There are also plans to construct a passenger terminal to support future homeporting.
“We want to strive to be able to homeport ships,” James said.
The downtown area next to the port is also being revitalized and is set to be completed within the next two to three years, with newly built buildings designed in the vintage Antiguan colonial style, a new 250-room hotel, high-end anchor brands shops, as well as a light railway tram.
This Central American country is unique, said Karen Bevans, director of tourism, Belize Tourism Board, during a one-on-one meeting at Seatrade, because it’s located in Central America with easy access to Mexico and Guatemala, and has a distinct Caribbean vibe. “And we are the only English-speaking county in Central America,” she noted.
Bevans pointed out, too, that besides its gorgeous beaches, the country offers a variety of experiential activities such as bike tours that allow clients to sightsee on their own, food tours, and plenty of cultural experiences, including exploring the Mayan ruins.
New properties are popping up, such as Naia Resort and Spa, which opened in January as a new luxury resort on the Placencia Peninsula, on about a mile of beach and extending through forests and lagoons. Nearby, guests can go snorkeling on the hemisphere’s longest barrier reef, or opt for an afternoon of hiking, river tubing and ziplining. Naia features 35 individual Beach Houses overlooking the Caribbean Sea, offering studio-, 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom configurations, all with deep-soaking tubs, a private outdoor shower, and a wet bar. The larger accommodations offer full kitchens and seafront pool decks. Also on property, three restaurants offer Placencia’s regional fare, and Naia Spa features six treatment rooms with private decks extending over lily-covered lagoons. The spa is spread across a series of forested islands, and the Couple’s Suite is located on its own island offering guests a romantic setting.
In addition, The Resort at Mahogany Bay Village, a Curio Collection by Hilton property opening later this year will be the first Hilton property in Belize, as well as the first luxury resort from a global brand in the country. The rustic-chic resort will be located in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye and will feature 205 cottage- and villa-style rooms and beach clubs, plus a spa, and The Village—a public space consisting of a general store, craft and farmers market, scuba and fishing operators, and concierge and tour coordination.
In 2016, 518 ships called to Jamaica, welcoming a total of 1,655,565 cruise visitors for the year. In fact, Jamaica recently welcomed nine ships simultaneously calling on the nation’s ports, representing 20,000 visitors in a single day.
The island is looking to “upgrade and expand Jamaica’s cruise ports to accommodate more and larger ships,” said Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism for Jamaica, during a press conference at Seatrade. The island is also in the process of developing Kingston as a major cruise destination and port. “We hope to reach 2.3 million cruise visitors by 2020,” he added.
The island’s port development includes increased berthing capacity in Montego Bay, as well as new cruise terminal buildings and increased ground transportation. The infrastructure will be improved in the Port of Ocho Rios to enhance the visitor experience. And the destination hopes to expand Port Antonio so it can receive more calls from boutique ships.
The objectives, said Bartlett, is to “showcase Jamaica as a cruise leader in the Caribbean, enhance guest experience and assure a seamless and safe port arrival.”