Just because it’s been nearly a full year since cruise ships last called on the island of Antigua doesn’t mean the people there haven’t been preparing for their return. The island recently completed construction on the fifth cruise ship berth at St. John’s Port at a cost of $30 million. The project began before the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world but fortunately, the virus didn’t significantly hinder construction. The new pier was part of the $80 million agreement signed in 2019 between Global Ports Holding, the world’s largest cruise port operator, and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to redevelop the cruise complex on the island. The pier will be able to accomodate the largest cruise ships sailing today.
Partnership with Global Ports Holding
“Global Ports Holding has successfully delivered on its commitment to complete the fifth berth and has repaid $21 million of debt on behalf of the government, which was tied to the construction of the Nevis Street Pier,” said Dona Regis-Prosper, General Manager of Antigua Cruise Port. “We were especially thrilled to have maintained our construction timeline and finalized the pier project during the pandemic. Our construction team, port employees, and other partners worked tirelessly to ensure that we remained on schedule and finished the job. We are very excited about the results.”
“Our booking rates for the second half of 2021 and for 2022 are on the rise. Now that the cruise lines are aware that there is more berth space in Antigua, we are receiving more bookings from cruise lines that want to offer itineraries that include our destination. This includes calls with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, who are very interested in bringing passengers here on Oasis Class ships now that the fifth berth can accommodate these massive vessels. Based on our current projections, we estimate that some 285,000 passengers could visit Antigua between October and December of 2021, depending on when cruising resumes,” Regis-Prosper continued.
The islands of Antigua and Barbuda belong to a group of islands in the Eastern Caribbean known as the Lesser Antilles. The islands rely heavily on tourism, particularly from cruise ships, to fuel their economy.
“Completing this pier was a huge priority for us,” said Mehmet Kutman, Chairman of Global Ports Holding. “As we expand our presence across the Caribbean, it is of the utmost importance that we follow through on our commitments to the destinations we serve. We believe in the Antigua tourism product and are pleased to have a very positive working relationship with the Government, which has made this project much easier for us to complete. My sincere thanks to Dona and the entire team at Antigua Cruise Port, to Meridian Construction, and to all our port partners for making this project a success.”
Taking COVID-19 Protocols Seriously
Like all cruise and travel destinations, Antigua Cruise Port is serious about visitor health and safety. They are currently collaborating with the local government to develop new COVID-19 protocols for the port to support the health and safety measures that were implemented at the start of the pandemic.
“We want everyone to know that our port and our destination are safe to visit based on the highest global standards of cleanliness and COVID-19 precautions.” Regis-Prosper explained.
Antigua doesn’t have the same cruise visitor numbers as other islands in the Caribbean, but the hope is that in the future, the island can grow as a vacation destination and entice cruise lines to call on the island. Future upgrades to the local community include renovations of the Heritage Quay Shopping Mall and other commercial development which will help bolster tourism as well as the local community.