The luxurious port of St. John’s in Antigua and Barbuda celebrated the official opening of the winter cruise season with five cruise ships in port on Tuesday, December 6, 2022, an occasion that also served as the formal opening of the port’s fifth berth, which is capable of accommodating some of the world’s largest cruise ships.
Five Ships Visit Antigua in One Day
Five cruise ships from five different cruise lines were docked in Antigua on Tuesday, December 6, not only visiting the popular tropical destination, but representing the official opening of the winter cruise season and celebrating the opening of the port’s fifth berth.
Seabourn Ovation (Seabourn Cruises), Marella Explorer 2 (Marella Cruises), Norwegian Dawn (Norwegian Cruise Line), Celebrity Millennium (Celebrity Cruises), and AIDAperla (AIDA Cruises) were all on hand for the momentous visit.
According to the Antigua Observer, many local officials and dignitaries were on hand to welcome the ships, sharing remarks about the port’s growth and the return of the cruising industry in the wake of the pandemic.
“Thirty-three months ago, on March 14, 2020, we received the dreadful news of the closure of the cruise industry after only four months of operations in Antigua,” said Dona Regis-Prosper, General Manager of Antigua Cruise Port, describing how the pandemic impacted the port.
“The weeks that followed were amongst the most challenging that I had experienced in my long career in this industry – cancellation after cancellation of cruise calls, passengers stuck at sea, and crew desperate to get home to their families,” she continued.
“And 28 months ago, on July 15, 2021, we reopened the cruise industry with a call from the Windsurf [Windstar Cruises] welcoming a modest 85 passengers. The rest of the year would continue to be challenging with variants, changing protocols and of course cancelled calls.”
Today, St. John’s is not only capable of welcoming ships once again without restriction, but is looking forward to more than 600,000 total passengers during the peak winter season.
This includes port of call visits as well as a first for the island, a homeported ship from P&O Cruises.
New Berth Completed
The new fifth berth, which was completed in December 2020 during the pandemic shutdown, adds much greater capacity to the cruise port.
Prior to the completion of the berth, the port handled approximately 800,000 passengers each year. Now, up to 1,000,000 guests may be able to visit Antigua. Harbor dredging that has improved the marine channel has also made it possible for larger vessels to call on Antigua.
The new terminal building is not yet complete, but is expected to be finished by November 2023 when additional ships from Emerald Cruises and SeaDream Yacht Club have planned to begin homeporting from Antigua.
The new terminal will be more than 10,000 square feet, with dedicated space for port operations as well as luggage handling and shopping options.
Cruising to Antigua
The twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, in the Leeward Islands of the West Indies, is a popular port of call on Southern Caribbean cruise itineraries.
The peak cruise season generally runs from October through April, though some vessels do call on Antigua during the summer as well. For the 2022-2023 winter season, ships from a variety of cruise lines are scheduled to visit.
In addition to Tuesday’s cruise lines, vessels from Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Windstar Cruises, TUI Cruises, Holland America Line, Viking, Costa Cruises, and more are all on the port’s upcoming calendar.
P&O Cruises newest ship, Arvia, is to be homeported from St. John’s beginning in January 2023, with itineraries that visit St. Kitts, Martinique, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Maarten, and other exotic southern destinations.