(1:55 p.m. EDT) -- Seatrade Cruise Global is the largest conference in the world for the cruise industry, and ports from every part of the globe were in attendance, from March 13 to 16 in Fort Lauderdale, to discuss their latest developments.
While we didn't have the chance to speak to each and every port, major updates from Asia, North America, French Polynesia and the Caribbean give just a taste of how diverse and far-reaching the effects the cruise industry is having across the world.
Read our roundup of five different cruise ports and what they have in store.
Thailand to Develop Multiple Cruise Ports
The government of Thailand, in cooperation with its tourism board, is making a major commitment to its cruise industry. A brand-new Cruise Tourism Committee has been formed solely to address and oversee the country's growing cruise business. Phuket is being redeveloped as a homeport with a short-term refurbishment of the existing facility, plus a long-term expansion in the second phase, scheduled to take place over the next five years. These improvements include space for multiple ship berths, a convention and exhibition center, hotels, restaurants and retail. Other plans include major improvements to the ports in Bangkok and Laem Chabang, which is about two hours outside of Bangkok. These improvements, including room to dock two ships at a time, should be complete by 2022. Visitors to Thailand -- from Asia and around the world -- are growing at a rapid rate. One million Americans have already visited Thailand in 2017.
Quebec Looks to Expand Seasonality
The Port of Quebec in Quebec City and other Eastern Canadian ports already enjoy a vibrant cruise season in the fall, when ships call during leaf-peeping Canada/New England voyages. But, as more cruise ships are deployed, Quebec is looking to expand that seasonality well into the summer. Pleasant weather and plenty of festivals are just two of the draws that Quebec believes easily make it a summer and family-friendly destination as well as one that's heavily established in autumn (ending on October 31). Holland America Line currently begins its season in Quebec City on May 4 and runs occasional cruises throughout the summer season. After a record-setting year of tourism (about 5 million visitors to the city), Quebec is actively seeking commitment to a longer cruise season from more lines.
Tahiti Unveils Plans for New Cruise Terminal Structure
In addition to building awareness about its destination (Tahiti is actually 118 different islands!), representatives from the Tahiti tourism board also shared plans to build a new, two-story permanent structure at the port of Papeete. The building will streamline the entry from the ship to the port in a bustling area along the Grand Boulevard near the downtown market, and will be able to accommodate ships up to 350-meters long and up to roughly 2,000 passengers per day. The project is expected to conclude in 2020, and coincide with some improvements to the airport and the Air Tahiti Nui fleet of planes. The French Polynesian nation is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of their famous overwater bungalows, and focusing many excursions on food and authentic life on the islands.
The U.S.V.I. Celebrates 100 Years, Bolsters Excursions Offerings
Many milestones are being reached in 2017, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are joining the fray in celebration of 100 years since the sale of the island group from Denmark to the United States. As one of the most popular Caribbean destinations for cruise ships (islands include St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and more), the U.S.V.I. is looking to expand shore excursions offerings. Trends in culinary and custom tours mean more choices for foodies, like the walking tour in downtown Charlotte Amalie, as well as new excursions like Pirates' Treasure, an interacting diving adventure debuting at the end of March. Fort Christian, the oldest building in the U.S. Virgin Islands, also reopens at the end of the month after renovations. Another exciting addition for cruise passengers? A new water taxi program that will transport cruisers from the docks to downtown.
Jamaica Sees Record-Breaking Number of Cruise Ships, Turns Eye to Kingston
March 1 marked a record-setting day for the ports of Jamaica: nine cruise ships were hosted by four ports (Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Falmouth and Port Antonio), meaning about 20,000 visitors in one afternoon. Officials for the port are keen to propel the momentum of their growing cruise sector by dredging the port in Kingston, its capital, to accommodate larger ships, and upgrade and expand all existing cruise ports. The initiative, which aims to bring 5 million cruise passengers to Jamaica in the next five years, also includes a multimillion-dollar expansion of the country's shore excursion offerings. Another hope is to once again link the destinations of Jamaica and Cuba, to be a new Caribbean itinerary option for cruise lines.
--By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor