SAN JUAN – The Carnival Cruise Lines’ Fascination, which was scheduled to depart from the Port of San Juan this weekend, has postponed sailings until January, the president of the Cruceros To Go travel agency, Daphne Barbeito, said Thursday.
The cruiseship will be docked in San Juan, its homeport, until then, but it will serve as lodging for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel.
Barbeito expressed concern over the economic impact this would have on the island.
Carnival’s Fascination (Screen capture of www.carnival.com)
“This decision [affects] taxi drivers, transportation providers, tour operators, tourism guides, travel agents, wedding coordinators, companies that sell supplies, among other services that due to this decision are impacted directly and could lead to a larger exodus of Puerto Rico workers and entrepreneurs as well as bankruptcy filings,” she assured.
Carnival and Royal Caribbean–with its Adventure of the Seas, whose homeport is also San Juan–both had announced they would restart operations in Puerto Rico, and were expected to bring a combined 5,000 tourists over the weekend.
Royal Caribbean executives visited the island this week to assess the state of the port after Hurricane María, as evidence of their “commitment with the industry on the island,” Tourism Co. Executive Director José Izquierdo told Caribbean Business
During their stay, Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain, President and CEO Michael Bayleh, and President and COO Adam Goldstein met with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
Homeport cruise ships are a priority in the promotion strategy of Puerto Rico because studies, such as one by Aruba’s destination management organization, reveal that tourists spend more at those ports than on the rest of the sailing route.
Barbeito said the government must reach an agreement that doesn’t keep Carnival’s Fascination docked for so long.
“The Tourism Company, the Ports Authority and the governor himself must speak with FEMA and Carnival Cruises to immediately find an alternative plan that doesn’t deprive the destination of the little economic recovery that cruise visits give us,” the travel executive said, adding she understands the importance of lodging staff that is helping with the island’s recovery efforts.
“We know that FEMA has an important job in rebuilding Puerto Rico and we are not minimizing it. However, allowing FEMA to take over all tourist segments like hotels, the Convention Center and now Carnival’s Fascination without measuring the economic repercussions that this represents for our island isn’t responsible,” she said.
Other cruiseships are expected to resume their visits to the island in November, but Barbeito indicated that Holland America and the Celebrity Cruises charter expected in Ponce at the beginning of November also postponed there arrival until the end of that month.
Another record number of cruise passengers arrive in Puerto Rico