With bands playing, national anthems ringing out and the pulsations of Junkanoo, Bahamian leaders, businesses and stakeholders celebrated a long-awaited historic milestone June 12 as more than 1,000 passengers boarded Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas ready to set sail from its embarkation port of Nassau for the first time in the cruise line’s history and a first for The Bahamas.
Prime Minister Hubert A Minnis, Director General of Tourism Joy Jibrilu, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Travis Robinson, Royal Caribbean Vice President of Government Relations Russell Benford and others participated in what a guest described as “the first jubilant ceremony in nearly 16 months in downtown Nassau” and what the Director General called “a truly momentous occasion.”
Limited attendance to comply with COVID restrictions did not dampen the spirit of the ceremony held in Pompey Square.
“It has been a long and challenging period for our country and for the entire world, including the global tourism industry and the cruising sector,” said the prime minister, calling cruising “an essential economic driver for our small country.”
He noted that Royal Caribbean was delivering record numbers of visitors to The Bahamas prior to the pandemic that forced a total shutdown of the industry. Now, with the first ship set to sail from its new homeport of Nassau and the hotels buzzing with life as passengers flew in before embarking on their cruise, the prime minister called it “the best of both worlds” as tourism officials pointed to the historic significance.
“Today, this ceremony marks a turning point in the history of cruising in The Bahamas as a Nassau port of call becomes a homeport for Royal Caribbean,” said Ms. Jibrilu, describing the cruise line’s journey to return to sailing after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of cruising around the world. Nassau, said Ms. Jibrilu, was an immediately attractive candidate given proximity to America’s cruise capital of South Florida, airlift options and accommodations capacity.
“The proposition for homeporting put forward by Royal Caribbean was immediately embraced by the Ministry of Tourism,” she explained. “We, the Ministry of Tourism and the people of The Bahamas welcome back Royal Caribbean with open arms to rediscover once again why it’s better in The Bahamas.”
For the business community, homeporting is not just better in The Bahamas – it’s better for The Bahamas. A number of Bahamian wholesalers and retailers are reaping the benefits of provisioning the ship. When sailing at full capacity, the vessel carries 3,800 passengers plus crew.
As Royal Caribbean begins its return to sail, ships are sailing with new protocols in place, including limited capacity until further notice.
But, according to Benford pent-up demand is driving strong bookings. He noted that Royal Caribbean’s first foreign port of call was Nassau, some 52 years ago.
“We have always been committed to building on our relationship with The Bahamas and with the help of the Minister of Tourism, the Director General and their terrific, energetic team who worked with us every step of the way, we are able to stand here today and celebrate the inaugural homeport sailing of Adventure of the Seas in Nassau,” he said.
“What does homeporting mean? Already our partners are telling us they see a difference. With a limited guest capacity of about 25% of normal, we have about 1,000 guests onboard. One hotel told us they had 500+ reservations as a result. Bookings are up for Bahamasair and more flights have been added. NAD officials report an uptick in visitor arrivals and reservations in the coming weeks for both arrivals and departures.
“And because we are provisioning the ship in The Bahamas, we have already signed contracts with a number of food, beverage and sundry wholesalers and distributors including one of my favorite drinks, Switcha which will now be available for consumption and for sale on the ship.
“At Royal Caribbean, we are always searching for new and innovative ways to help grow the economy in the destinations we visit.
“Homeporting provided an ideal opportunity. We held two workshops with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation in Nassau and the Grand Bahama Chamber to share available opportunities for supplying the ships with food and beverage or our guests with tours and excursions. More than 620 people participated and we had over 100 follow-up inquiries.
“That translated into real business with dollars staying in The Bahamas.
“We also provided the Small Business Development Centre with a $250,000 grant to assist small to medium-sized businesses that could benefit from homeporting and other projects we have in The Bahamas.
“Additionally, we continue to make upgrades to our hugely popular private island destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Berry Islands where we have invested more than $155 million,” he said. “We really look forward to strengthening our relationships with the many stakeholders in Nassau and hope that it will enhance the overall visitor experience, increase debarkation rates and lead to an increase in visitor spend.”
Adventure of the Seas will depart Nassau every Saturday throughout the summer on a seven-day cruise that includes calls to Perfect Day@Coco Cay, Cozumel, Mexico and Grand Bahama where it will do major provisioning and fueling before returning to Nassau.
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