Some people said it was still relatively quiet in Philipsburg last Saturday, despite the first cruise since the COVID-19 pandemic started more than a year ago. That is understandable because only 626 passengers ended up boarding the Celebrity Millennium (see Tuesday paper), about 30 per cent of capacity.
In addition, the ship was homeporting, which has plenty advantages, but does not exactly promote shopping the way regular calls do. These travellers arrive by plane usually one or two days before and are mainly focussed on starting their vacation at sea, while those returning home have usually already spent most of what they intend to in destinations along the seven-night sailing route.
However, in terms of the airport, transport services, visitor accommodations, restaurants and the like, homeporting is no doubt good business and should be encouraged to the extent the local infrastructure can handle such responsibly. As a matter of fact, two smaller vessels will also do it this summer.
The latter is welcome news, along with two announced cruises out of Fort Lauderdale and one out of Barbados. More will surely follow suit in the weeks to come, so this major pillar of the tourism economy can – slowly but surely – get back on track.
One should keep in mind too that even frequent stayover guests often first experienced the island while on a cruise. This potential “conversion benefit” is of greater importance than many may realise.