St Maarten Cruise Season Peak Starts


PHILIPSBURG–Port St. Maarten welcomed three cruise ships on Saturday, of which two – Mein Schiff 2 and MS Rotterdam – for the first time since the start of the pandemic. This week, sixteen cruise calls are expected, starting with three today, Monday.


Early Saturday morning, Port St. Maarten Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alexander Gumbs organised a small pier side reception to officially welcome Mein Schiff 2, followed by the traditional inaugural call plaque exchange. A few hours later, a similar ceremony was held for the captain and his team of MS Rotterdam.


Mein Schiff 2 is a new-build vessel of German TUI Cruises that entered the fleet in February 2019, bringing TUI’s total number of ships to seven. Featuring a length of 315 meters and a width of 36 meters, the US $625 million vessel Mein Schiff 2 can accommodate 2,894 passengers and 1,092 crew onboard. It carries the flag of Malta.


TUI Cruises is a 50:50 joint venture, based in Hamburg, Germany, between TUI AG and Royal Caribbean Cruises. The business was founded in 2008.


The new MS Rotterdam, delivered in May 2021, is Holland America Line’s flagship. A sister to the larger Koningsdam and the Nieuw Amsterdam, the MS Rotterdam is the third in the Pinnacle-class.


With the inaugural calls on Saturday, the high season has really started. This week the port welcomes the highest number of cruise passengers so far this year. On Tuesday, the largest cruise ship in the world, the Symphony of the Seas of Royal Caribbean Cruises, will call at St. Maarten.


This week, Port St. Maarten will welcome five other ships from Royal Caribbean. Three of these vessels – Oasis of the SeasAllure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas – each have a capacity of over 6,600 guests and are expected to arrive with 60 per cent occupancy according to coronavirus COVID-19 restrictions.


Cruise calls are as follows: Today, Monday, November 15, there will be three cruise ships in port. On Tuesday, the same number of ships are expected, including Mein Schiff 2. Both on Wednesday and Thursday, four ships will dock in port. Friday there are no cruise ships. For Saturday, the arrival of two ships is scheduled, including Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, with a capacity of 4,290 guests. This brings the total to sixteen cruise calls this week.


St. Maarten is one of cruising’s most popular islands with more than 1.5 million cruisers and 565 cruise ship calls in 2019. However, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to cruising and tourism in 2020, and the cruise tourism in St. Maarten is not expected to fully recover until 2023.


“While it is evident that the pandemic has had a major impact on the travel industry as a whole, the future is looking better,” Royal Caribbean stated. “Cruise lines have increased capacity in 2021 and bookings for 2022 are forecasted at pre-COVID levels. In anticipation of growth, Royal Caribbean along with other cruise lines continues to order news ships. We will see another Oasis class ship in 2023 along with three new Icon class ships stretching out to 2025.”


On November 9, the French shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique has delivered the largest cruise ship in the world to Royal Caribbean Cruises. The new Wonder of the Seas is 362 meters long and can accommodate up to 6,988 guests. The French yard has spent two years building Royal Caribbean’s flagship, which is ready for its maiden trip. That will take a while: the Wonder of the Seas is scheduled to explore Caribbean shores starting March 2022, and will then visit St. Maarten.