May 18, 2001
Ports-of-call, in that all-important bid to snag cruise ships (and, naturally, their presumably free-spending passengers), continue to invest in improvements that make their destination more attractive. The latest? Antigua has just announced a major new project, breaking ground next month, that will expand facilities in St. Johns Harbor. These include an additional cruise pier, shops, restaurants and a boardwalk that leads toward, well, more shops. The project is due for completion in 18 months but sources there say that the expanded facilities will contribute to an increase in annual passenger counts from the pre-expansion year-2000 count of 450,000 to an estimated 1 million cruisers when the project's done. The anticipated increase is not only due to glitzier facilities but also to the fact that the expansion, basically a necessity, allows ports like St. Kitts to accommodate the hefty girth of today's bigger ships (and provide passengers with more activities on the island). Just last week, Cannes, the glitzy European tender-only port, unveiled a cruise ship pier; Seabourn Pride was on hand to join in the launch festivities. The Caribbean's St. Kitts is adding a spanking new terminal with restaurants, shops, fountains and even gardens; it is scheduled for opening this winter. And the Port of Palm Beach, which has, heretofore, pretty much limited its cruise ship presence to vessels offering cheap cruise-to-nowhere gambling outings, is taking aim at its near-neighbors. That city's new cruise terminal, which tourism honchos hope will detour embarkation/disembarkation traffic from Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades and the Port of Miami, opens in the fall. Already, Cunard, Seabourn, Radisson Seven Seas and Silversea have committed to stops there (day trips to Palm Beach -- ooh la la). The port is also negotiating for long term contracts with lines like Crystal and Windstar.