Cruise bug

An increasing number of Barbadians are choosing cruising over travel by air.

Word from some in the travel industry, while describing the recently concluded cruise season (November to April) as “extremely good”, is that there is a strong desire by locals to take to the seas and visit multiple destinations during a seven-day or 14-day cruise instead of vacationing in one destination.

Veteran travel agent and co-owner of DMA Value Vacations, Denese Nichols, said: “Cruising did very well this past cruise season, and it is very clear that people are preferring to cruise than to fly. There is a great uptake for cruises and a higher demand for cruises.

“It’s truly value for money, plus, during the cruise season Barbadians can board at the Bridgetown Port. So there is that comfort level of being able to do that without the hassle which comes with air travel. More mature persons with disposable income are among those travelling in high numbers.

“Once people go on their first cruise, they become bitten by the cruise bug. There is the joy of enjoying that overall experience, where cruising is all-inclusive. That’s what drives the industry. People do not have to travel by air to cruise as long as they can board the vessels in Barbados and that seems to be the preference,” Nichols explained.

She noted there was a small decline in the number of people flying.

“There seemed to be a slight decline in the air travel leisure market as more persons opt to cruise, but business travel has maintained a steady flow. Last cruise season, there was a lot of movement, which was helped by the fact that there were non-United States visa destinations and some special offers.”

 A representative of Indar Weir Travel, who also described the recently concluded cruise sector as successful, said: “Barbadians can cruise year-round as long as they are prepared to travel by air and board vessels at various ports any part of the globe. The cruise numbers are increasing.”

She added that bookings for cruises later in the year and into 2025 had already started.

Martin Ince, chief executive officer of Foster & Ince Cruise Services, which provides a variety of services to cruise vessels, is among those “quite pleased” with the 2023 to 2024 cruise season.

He said: “The cruise industry continues to add more ships, destinations and source markets. Traditionally, the southern Caribbean cruise season has been November to April, after which the vessels go to other ports, but there are places like The Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cozumel, South America and the western Caribbean, where vessels can still be found.

“Barbados is further south and this makes it difficult for the island to be included in some itineraries outside of the cruise season.”

However, Ince added: “We are fortunate to have 28 ships coming to the island between now and October, such as the Rhapsody Of The Seas coming out of Puerto Rico, but Barbadians must fly to Puerto Rico to board the vessel there. We do not have the opportunity during the summer months to board ships here. If persons want to cruise they can fly to various United States or European destinations.

 “The cruise industry now is quiet, but we had a strong season. Since COVID-19, each year there has been a constant increase in the number of persons travelling and during 2024 to 2026, numbers continue to build and expand globally, as cruise lines offer new vessels.”

He disclosed that during the current summer months, Foster & Ince would be paying attention to training and upgrades, as the company works with industry partners in preparation for the 2024-2025 cruise season.

“We are quite positive about the future as far as our cruise industry is concerned,” Ince said. (CH)

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