The seven Central American countries (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) are becoming increasingly popular cruise destinations, as shown by the latest data released:
The Belize Tourist Board (BTB) has announced that the country received more than 727,000 cruise passengers in 2011, and expects an increase in 2012, as more travellers may be interested in exploring destinations in the Mayan World, such as Belize.
Official data released by the Costa Rica Tourist Board indicates that the cruise season from October 2011 to May 2012 may turn out to be the best in many years. Cruise liners docking in Costa Rica for the first time this season include the majestic Sea Cloud II, which will dock in Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas) and Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth (Puntarenas).
Meanwhile, El Salvador received the German liner MS Deutschland in March, with 250 German, Austrian and Swiss passengers. A delegation headed by Tourism Minister Jose Napoleon Duarte welcomed them. Mr Duarte said: “El Salvador continues to be on the radar for cruise itineraries and we are negotiating new arrivals for next year with other major international cruise companies.”
The Guatemala Tourist Board, which recently attended the Cruise Shipping Miami trade show, expects a 20 per cent increase in cruise arrivals to the country during the 2012-13 season, with 58 cruise liners expected to arrive between October 2012 and April 2013, bringing in a six per cent increase in revenue.
Honduras presented its plans to boost cruise tourism at Cruise Shipping Miami, promoting the new Banana Coast port on Bahia Trujillo, which will start operating in the first few months of 2013. Banana Coast will be the first cruise port on Honduras’ mainland, as the country’s two other existing ports are on the island of Roatan. Following an investment of US$20 million, the new port is expected to help increase the number of cruise arrivals (currently 290 ships).
In Nicaragua, the total number of cruise passengers expected to arrive this season (from October 2011 to May 2012) is 70,000 passengers on 41 cruises, spending an average of US$80 per person per day.
The Panama Tourist Board also attended Cruise Shipping Miami, where it announced that Carnival Cruise Line is to include Panama in its itineraries, which will represent a 30 per cent increase in cruise arrivals to Panama.
Besides, the tourist board held a meeting with the American company Panamerican Seaways in March, where they agreed a new seven-day circuit starting in Colon, and visiting Isla Colan (Bocas del Toro) and possibly the Guna Yala (San Blas archipelago). This new itinerary is expected to be available at the end of 2012 and use a ship with capacity for 1,600 passengers.
Demand for cruises departing from Panama’s Home Port Colon 2000 has remained high this season, with Royal Caribbean and Pullmantur reporting 100 per cent occupancy on their vessels. Another key development for the cruise industry in Panama will be the building of a new cruise terminal on Isla Colon (Bocas del Toro), with an expected investment of US$400,000 from public funds.
Central America offers cruise passengers the opportunity to relax on pristine beaches, enjoy a diversity of adventure activities and watersports, and discover fascinating flora and fauna in the region’s lush nature.