St. Maarten's late 2018 cruise traffic passed pre-Irma numbers

Soualiga Sky Explorer, part of the new Rockland Estate adventure park, opened immediately following Hurricane Irma  (Photo: Rainforest Adventures) Soualiga Sky Explorer, part of the new Rockland Estate adventure park, opened immediately following Hurricane Irma (Photo: Rainforest Adventures)

St. Maarten, one of the Caribbean's leading cruise destinations and one of the places hardest hit by 2017's Hurricane Irma, handled nearly 1.6m cruise passengers in 2018. Moreover, the port surpassed pre-Irma arrival numbers in the second half of the year.

Port St. Maarten welcomed 1,597,101 cruise passengers on 489 calls, a 29% increase from 2017, and compared to the 1.66m in 2016. The port also posted a 30.3% increase from May through July, when cruise visitations to the island are typically a bit slower.

These numbers highlight how quickly the island has bounced back, said May-Ling Chun, director of tourism.

18% increase September-December, compared to 2016

The latter half of 2018 brought a return to pre-Irma cruise arrival numbers. Port St. Maarten welcomed 646,431 passengers from September to December, a 17.87% increase in arrivals from the same time period in 2016, a full year before the Category 5 storm.

Irma, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record, pummeled St. Maarten in September 2017 with 182 mph winds. Cruise ships stayed away in October and November, a period that traditionally would see high visitation.

Major new attraction

When ships began returning in December that year, passengers had a major attraction to visit: Rainforest Adventures' newly opened Rockland Estate, featuring the Flying Dutchman, touted as the world's steepest zip line, and the Soualiga Sky Explorer, a chairlift adventure. Further features soon opened at the park.

'St. Maarten as a tourism product is set to come back even stronger and better than ever,' stated Stuart Johnson, minister of tourism, economic affairs, transport and telecommunication. 'We look forward to continuing to welcome cruise passengers back to our shores with classic St. Maarten warmth and hospitality throughout 2019.'

Posted 07 February 2019

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review

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