Caribbean Market Analysis

Growth in the Caribbean is slowing down in 1993, as cruise lines allow time for the market to absorb the record number of new ships which have been positioned to the Caribbean over the past two years. While the number of berths available in the Caribbean (excluding the Bahamas) is increasing 4.5 percent to 2.03 million in 1993, it is not as strong an increase as in 1992, which was 11 percent ahead of the capacity available in 1991.

However, berths available in the Bahamas are increasing by 7.5 percent to 1.22 million in 1993, compared to a seven percent decline in capacity in 1992.

Together the Caribbean and the Bahamas are experiencing a five percent increase to 3.25 million berths available in 1993, compared to a four percent increase in 1992.


Since last year’s overcapacity in the Caribbean necessitated some of the heaviest discounting in the industry, cruise lines are being more cautious about committing new tonnage to the seven-day Caribbean market on a year-round basis. A number are opting to reposition their ships to Alaska or the Mediterranean during the summer.

Lines which are reducing their capacity in the Caribbean in 1993 include Costa Cruise Line, which is positioning the Costa Allegra and the Costa Classica to the Mediterranean for full spring to summer programs. Thus, no Costa ships will be in the Caribbean year-round since the Costa Riviera cruises Alaska.

Princess Cruises is repositioning the Crown Princess to Alaska and has three ships sailing in Europe, thus leaving a void in tonnage in the Caribbean during the summer months.

Other lines decreasing capacity in the Caribbean include Cunard Line and Windstar Cruises, the latter of which is repositioning the Wind Spirit to the Orient on a year-round basis, leaving one ship to sail the Caribbean winters only.


The Bahamas is experiencing growth in 1993 due to fleet redeployments as a result of new tonnage being added to Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line.

When the 2,044-passenger Sensation arrives in late fall of 1993, she replaces the Ecstasy’s seven-day itineraries and the Ecstasy sails the Fantasy’s three­ and four-day Bahamas itineraries out of Port of Miami. The Fantasy then joins the Carnivale and Mardi Gras in port Canaveral on three- and four-day Bahamas cruises, thus strengthening Carnival’s already first-place position in tonnage in the Bahamas and Caribbean combined.

NCL is replacing the 710-passenger Sunward with the 829-passenger Westward, which will be repositioned from Miami to sail on a year-round basis to the Bahamas from Port Everglades.

While Majesty Cruise Line’s capacity in the Bahamas increases in 1993 once the 1,056-passenger Royal Majesty is in service a full year, it does not increase Bahamas capacity as much as originally intended. The line has changed the four­ day Bahamas itineraries to four-day Western Caribbean itineraries.

Caribbean: Who ‘s Grown?

In the seven-day market, RCCL, Carnival, and NCL are still the three leaders in capacity and comprise 51 percent of the market. RCCL’s increase in capacity is due to the Majesty of the Seas being in service a full year in 1993. NCL is adding capacity with the introduction of the 1,246-passenger sister ships, the Dreamward and Windward.

Crown Cruise Line is also experiencing a strong increase in tonnage due to its newbuildings. The Crown Jewel was introduced to the Caribbean this fall and her sistership, the Crown Dynasty, enters the Caribbean market in the spring before heading north for New England/Canada cruises.

Also adding new tonnage is Regency Cruises. The 960-passenger Regent Rainbow, introduced later this month, is set to sail five-day Western Caribbean cruises from Port of Tampa along with two-day cruises to nowhere. In the summer, the ship cruises to New England and Canada.

Holland America Line’s first of three newbuildings, the 1,256-passenger Statendam, is offering winter Caribbean/Panama Canal itineraries before heading to Europe for the summer season.

Other Lines increasing capacity are Dolphin Cruise Line and Radisson Diamond Cruises, since last year the OceanBreeze and the Radisson Diamond were not in service a full year.

U.S. Homeports

The Port of San Juan and Port Everglades are capturing the lion’s share of new ships sailing the Caribbean this season. NCL’s 1,250-passenger Dreamward is sailing from Port Everglades seasonally, which adds approximately 30,000 passengers a year. Next month, HAL’s Statendarn commences Caribbean/Panama Canal cruises from Port Everglades through April. The redeployment of the Westward to Port Everglades for Bahamas’ cruises should contribute over 50,000 passengers to Port Everglades’ passenger counts.

San Juan is homeporting the 810-passenger Costa Allegra this winter season, adding approximately 15,000 more passengers on a seasonal basis. NCL’s Windward is replacing the 785-passenger Starward in San Juan, thus adding close to 500 passengers weekly, or 25,000 annually.

While the Port of Miami is homeporting the Sensation when it enters the market next fall, the ship is not adding to the passenger counts since Carnival is repositioning the sister ship, the Fantasy, to Port Canaveral. Because of this, Port Canaveral’s capacity is set to increase 49 percent in the fall of 1993.

The Crown Jewel and Crown Dynasty are calling the Port of Palm Beach home. The Crown Jewel is sailing Caribbean itineraries year­ round, while the Dynasty is set to sail from Palm Beach seasonally.

On the Gulf Coast, the Port of Tampa is adding the 960-passenger Regent Rainbow to its roster this season. Regency Cruises’ newest addition is sailing two-day cruises to nowhere and five-day Western Caribbean sailings. The Port of St. Petersburg is homeporting the 450-passenger Gruziya, which is marketed here in the U.S. by OdessAmerica.

This year, Sun Line Cruises is adding additional Caribbean sailings which depart from Port of Galveston for the Western Caribbean and Panama Canal.

Caribbean Homeports

A number of Caribbean ports are home to mid-sized and smaller cruise ships. This past year, Dolphin ‘s 768-passenger OceanBreeze and Seawind Cruises’s 624-passenger Seawind Crown began homeporting on a year-round, weekly basis in Aruba. By homeporting in the deep Caribbean, these cruise lines can offer more unusual seven-day itineraries.

Jamaica’s Montego Bay is the seasonal homeport to the 950-passenger Regent Star. Antigua homeports a number of small vessels, including Star Clipper’ Star Flyer; WindJammer Barefoot Cruises’ Fantome and Mandalay; and Renaissance Cruises’ vessels.

St. Maarten homeports the Star Clipper, Clipper Cruise Line’s Yorktown Clipper, and WindJammer’s Polynesia. The rest of the WindJammer vessels homeport in either Freeport, Grenada, or Tortola.

St. Thomas homeports Sea Goddess I seasonally, as well as the Nantucket Clipper and the Wind Spirit. Windstar Cruises’ also homeports the Wind Star in Bridgetown, Barbados.

In the French West Indies, Martinique homeports the Club Med I seasonally, while Guadeloupe is home to European-marketed Le Ponant.

While these and many other Caribbean ports would like to be even more active in homeporting, the main problem is lack of strong air connections.

Western Caribbean Expansion

The Western Caribbean, which claims one­ third of all Caribbean itineraries, is not seeing as dramatic an increase in cruise ship calls in 1993 as it did this past year, due to the number of ships which are being positioned elsewhere during the summer.

However, in 1992 this region saw strong growth with the Cayman Islands increasing its passenger counts by 30 percent, from 478,000 in 1991 to 622,000 in 1992. In order to keep up with this growth, the port authority is building an additional tender landing.

Similarly, Jamaican ports saw a strong 30 percent increase in passenger counts in 1992. Montego Bay increased its counts by 63 percent, from 137,000 to 223,000 in 1992. The increase in Ocho Rios was 17 percent, with counts totalling 424,000 in 1992 compared to 362,000 in 1991.

Passenger Terminals

In order to accommodate its roster of new ships, the Puerto Rico Port Authority invested $20 million in Pier 4 this past year. The facility can berth two mega-ships simultaneously and is adjoined by a modern passenger terminal. Improvements to Pier 1 are presently taking place.

Freeport Harbour Co. is planning on building more passenger terminals as more cruise lines commit to calling in Freeport. One of the ways that Freeport is attracting cruise ships is through its wetdock facilities, which were established last year by Lloyd Werft of Germany. Within the next two years, a floating drydock will be added.

While 1992 passengers counts of over one million remain virtually the same in St. Thomas and St. John, U.S.V.I., St. Croix saw a six percent increase to 31,000 passengers as the port continues its recovery from hurricane effects. The new Frederiksted Pier, presently under construction, will be completed in December, 1993. At that time, the existing one-berth pier will be demolished. The $14.5 million project will feature two berths and will be able to accommodate ships up to 70,000 tons with a draft of 28 feet. While no terminal building is included in the current construction program, a terminal may be constructed in the future if there is a need.

Martinique’s $11 million passenger terminal will be officially opened in the spring of 1993, once shoreside facilities connecting the pier and terminal to the downtown area are completed, according to Pierre de Poyen, Executive Vice President of Plissonneau & Co. Once completed, the new Fort-de-France facility can berth two ships in addition to the three to five ships that the old facility can accommodate.

The British Virgin Islands will complete construction of a new 440 ft. pier in 1993 which can accommodate two ships at once at Wickhams Cay in Road Harbour. In addition, a passenger terminal will be built.

St. Maarten’s new cruise facilities have been put on hold, according to Sonny Hoo, Managing Director of the St. Maarten Port Authority. The project, which should have started in early 1992, is pending due to government final approval.

St. Maarten, with approximately 500,000 passengers annually, received a number of new ships this past year, including the Radisson Diamond, Monarch of the Seas, Zenith, and Costa Classica.

This past summer, Dominica’s Cabrits cruise ship port and passenger terminal opened as the first such facility located in a national park.

Other Caribbean Port Developments

Barbados, with 400,000 passengers in 1992, is in the midst of building a smokeless incinerator for cruise ship garbage disposal. Generally, up to five cruise ships can berth at present. However, long­ range future plans include dedicated berths and near-term future plans include upgrading the passenger terminal. Barbados will be the future homeport to upstart Silversea Cruises’ 314-passenger ships, Silver Cloud and Silver Wind; the first ship is intended to enter the market in 1994.

Due to the two ships homeporting in 1992, Aruba increased its counts by 59 percent to 211,000. This past year one of Aruba’s two passenger terminals was renovated to include an information counter, telephones, and customs facilities.

Also experiencing a strong increase in passenger counts this year is Guadelope, which received 259,000 passengers in 1992, which is a 69 percent increase over 1991.

St. Lucia saw an 18 percent increase in passengers in 1992 to 175,000 and is planning its second phase of waterfront development. This would include restaurants and shops within walking distance of the cruise ship pier.

French St. Martin is building a deep water pier which will be completed by late 1993, and may possibly extend the present pier. In Grenada, the port authority is presently upgrading the welcome center and tender dock.

Curacao is in the midst of a cruise industry economic impact study so as to ascertain what steps it should take in the development of cruise business. Another island in the Netherland Antilles, Bonaire, is planning a future feasibility study.

According to Rovelli Maritima, La Guaira’s cruise ship calls should increase from 250 to 300 in 1993. This includes many new ships and those returning to La Guaira after a few years absence. The Nieuw Amsterdam is calling at another Venezuela port, Puerto Cabello, this season on a trial basis.

Caribbean Port Issues

This past year has seen an increase in the tensions between cruise line executives and some Caribbean hoteliers, port, and tourism officials. In order to discuss the issues at hand more objectively, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) formed a cruise committee last summer comprised of port and government officials and cruise representatives. The commitee is addressing salient issues such as a minimum passenger tax, environmental concerns, and economic returns in the forms of passenger spending, sourcing, and jobs.

After heated debate over the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States'(OECS) proposal to raise the passenger tax to $10 per person, the increase was put on hold. The OECS will wait until the results of a Price Waterhouse economic impact study commissioned by the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) – are presented to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of state for discussion at their annual meeting in March. However, CIO, with its 31 member states, has a much broader representation than OECS and CARICOM and has thus requested to receive the study also.

Other attempts at compromise have been met with mixed results too. This summer, CTO and FCCA which represents cruise lines offering Caribbean itineraries, organized a meeting between Caribbean suppliers and cruise line purchasing executives. While some cruise line executives felt it was a good exchange of information, others felt that many of the Caribbean suppliers were trying to be too broad in their offerings rather than sticking to what they specialize in, such as fruits and vegetables.

In the midst of these issues, CTO has launched a joint marketing campaign. While CTO is receiving support from the cruise industry, it is not as much as CTO had proposed that the lines should contribute. The lines stipulated that the campaign had to be at least $12 million in scope in order for it to be effective and to receive the cruise lines’ $1.5 million contribution; so far, CTO has not reached that goal.

Future Growth

While there are still many Caribbean ports which can accommodate additional cruise ships at their present pierside facilities, there is some overcrowding of those popular ports which are most easily accessible on seven-day itineraries from Southern Florida. Two developments would help alleviate this problem, including the opening of Cuba to American travelers as well as further development of the deep Caribbean as a homeporting/cruising region.

As far as Cuba is concerned, many Southern Florida ports and cruise lines say they have plans in place in order to offer cruises to Cuba once this situation changes.

The second issue, the growth of the deep Caribbean, could be developed by forging stronger working relationships between cruise lines, port authorities and their governments, and airlines which control the airlift necessary for any destination to become a viable homeport.

With a number of mega-ships still on the horizon, including Carnival’s Sensation, Fascination, and Imagination, there are still more deployment opportunities for Caribbean and Southern Florida homeports. In addition, a number of other Caribbean carriers are expected to order new vessels in the near future. 

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