Antigua Is the Next Caribbean Cruise Powerhouse

caribbean cruise antigua

Antigua and Barbuda may be breaking tourism records for stopover arrivals — but it’s also quietly becoming a major new Caribbean cruise power. 

The Eastern Caribbean destination, which now has a partnership with Global Ports Holding, the world’s largest cruise port operator, continues to develop its infrastructure with even bigger plans ahead. 

Antigua is already working on a fifth cruise berth in its capital and primary cruise port of St John’s, which is now scheduled to open in time for the 2020-2021 cruise season. 

Global Ports Holding is already investing $45 million in enhancements at the cruise port now, with plans for another $50 million in the next 12 months, according to Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority CEO Colin C. James, who was addressing a recent media briefing at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Caribbean Travel Marketplace. 

caribbean cruise antigua

GPH’s projects will include the construction of a sea wall, dredging of the main channel, reclamation of land and a complete renovation of St John’s Heritage Quay area. 

Most notably, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is planning a significant new “Royal Beach Club” project at Antigua’s Fort James. 

The company’s first-ever Royal Beach Club will occupy a half-mile of beach near Fort James, set at the entrance to St John’s Harbor. 

“The Royal Beach Club Collection is an adventure we cannot wait to reveal to our guests,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International, in a statement. “We have incredible partners in the government of Antigua and Barbuda to bring the first of our collection to life. Together, we are designing an experience that will bring more visitors to these idyllic islands and will create significant economic benefits and opportunities for local employment for years to come.”

The beach club, which is scheduled to open in 2021, will be a full beach destination, with private cabanas, a pool and a swim-up bar, among other amenities. 

The newest project is the result, Royal Caribbean officials say, of the success of the company’s beach destination that launched last year in The Bahamas: PerfectDay at CocoCay.

Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez said the project would lead to almost $80 million in direct government revenue over the next 30 years, with more than $1 billion in indirect revenue. 

“The project will also provide meaningful employment to Antiguans and Barbudans for both the construction phase and the operations of the project for years to come,” Fernandez said in a statement.

caribbean cruise antigua
Ritz-Carlton’s new 300-passenger cruise ships will include several stops in Antigua over the next year, with the first this December.

Royal Caribbean’s plans come as Antigua will also be one of the first Caribbean ports for the highly-anticipated new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection boutique cruise line, which launches this year. 

Several of Ritz-Carlton’s 2020-2021 cruises will include stops at Antigua’s Falmouth Harbour, Caribbean Journal has learned.

It all adds up to a significant new offering for the destination — one that could reach 1.3 million annual cruise passengers by 2021-2022, according to tourism officials on the island. 

— CJ