Port of San Juan's Cruise Business Shows Signs of Life
San Juan's cruise business is beginning to show signs of life. Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas departed Puerto Rico's biggest port on October 7 on a commercial voyage to St. Kitts, Antigua and Martinique, and Celebrity Cruises has announced the resumption of departures from San Juan aboard Celebrity Summit, beginning October 28. Luxury operators Azamara and Seabourn are also planning itineraries that include the port.
On October 9, Carnival Corporation announced that it would restart its departures from Old San Juan Pier 4 with an October 15 sailing of the Carnival Fascination. However, in a reflection of the rapidly changing situation on the ground, the line quickly withdrew its announcement and canceled the cruise, along with all others for the vessel through the end of January. The Fascination has been chartered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide housing for relief workers in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and she will not be available to resume her commercial operations until February 18.
"We had sent our Carnival team to San Juan last weekend to assess and confirm our ability to resume operations in San Juan and had decided to confirm sailings on Monday. And then FEMA issued a formal request and we responded," said brand ambassador John Heald in a Facebook update. "The details are that as per FEMA’s request, the ship will be docked in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands and will provide housing and meals for relief workers. The duration of the charter is from October 15, 2017 to February 3, 2018."
However, even if the Fascination isn’t available, San Juan is still cruise-ready, Heald said: Carnival's advance team "confirmed the Old San Juan area is ready to receive tourists," and "many shops and businesses have returned to their normal business operations.” San Juan will still be included in other Carnival itineraries, including the December 30 departures of Carnival Magic and Carnival Vista and the December 23 departure of the Carnival Glory.
But the budding return of cruise activity at San Juan does not mean that all of the lines have resumed services. Norwegian, MSC Cruises, Holland America, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas have all replaced Puerto Rican port calls (and many others in the Eastern Caribbean) with other destinations. The full-fledged resumption of tourism may have to wait until Puerto Rico's basic public services and commercial activities have stabilized.