Port of St. Maarten is poised to receive new cruise vessels in 2010 and beyond. Ten new ships will enter the market in 2009 with another 14 in 2010, eight in 2011 and five in 2012. In total 38 ships are under construction and or will be built during the next four years representing an investment of over US$21 billion.
For the first quarter of 2009, the Port of St. Maarten received 23,045 more cruise passengers than for the first quarter of 2008. For the period January to March, the destination catered to 541.023 passengers compared to the same period for 2008 of 517.978 cruise passengers.
Even though there will be a decline in cruise passengers for 2009, the figures are expected to increase in 2010 getting back to normal by the 2010/2011 season. The St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies along with the Commissioner of Port Affairs Theo Heyliger, will be embarking on a new strategy where cruise line itinerary planning is concerned especially looking at the number of ships that will come online in the next three years.
The cruise business is not immune to the events of the global economic/financial crisis, but has met the challenge head on. Cruise lines have devised sophisticated revenue management techniques, and have the ability to make pricing adjustments weekly, daily, even hourly, to accommodate immediate customer demands.
Based on historical data, according to Vice President, Commercial Development of Royal Caribbean Cruises John Tercek, even in the most challenging times, at some price point, customers will set aside their worries about the future and book a cruise for a near-in sailing date. To date, through this financial crisis, ships have generally been sailing full, albeit at lower than optimum or forecast pricing. Tercek points out that like every previous crisis, this one will pass.
According to the Harbour Group’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Mingo, the Port of St. Maarten will be approaching all cruise brands that have different business models seeking to have them add the destination to their itineraries.
"New vessels that will set sail for the Eastern Caribbean area; we want to make sure that the Port of St. Maarten is on that itinerary. Cruise lines entering the Caribbean Basin for the first time, here again, we want to make sure that our port is included in their itinerary planning as we have much to offer cruise passengers as a premier cruise destination.
"As a cruise destination we need to continue to build relationships with the industry and be persistent in securing new business for the island especially in these challenging times. We will continue to be innovative in our planning," St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies CEO Mark Mingo pointed out.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) expects 13.5 million people to cruise in 2009, an increase of 2.3 per cent over 2008.
A survey carried out by CLIA revealed that cruises rank highest in consumer interest and perceived value compared to other vacation options.