Antigua and Barbuda: Antigua Cruise Port is featured in the latest edition of Antigua and Barbuda The Citizen. The country has long been a paradise for visitors thanks to its stunning natural beauty and incredible white-sand beaches.
As the country’s tourism industry goes from strength to strength and is consolidating itself as its primary revenue earner, the cruise industry has emerged as a vital contributor to the sector.
Consequently, Antigua Cruise Port is playing a crucial role as the gateway to the island for thousands of visitors from around the globe. Nestled right in the heart of the Caribbean, Antigua & Barbuda enjoys a prime location for the cruise industry. Strategically situated as the closest island to the UK when crossing the Atlantic and boasting excellent brand recognition, especially in the UK, it is a natural choice for cruise itineraries to both the north and south of the island.
But having an ideal position isn’t everything as far as the cruise industry is concerned. To solidify Antigua’s position as one of the Caribbean’s premier destinations, Antigua Cruise Port, operated by GPH (Antigua) Ltd a subsidiary of Global Ports Holding Plc since 2019, underwent an extensive redevelopment to accommodate the largest Oasis-class ships and increase capacity from 800,000 to 1,000,000 passengers a year.
The construction of this fifth berth, which officially opened in 2020, allows five ships to dock simultaneously. This impressive expansion has already attracted P&O’s Arvia – the largest cruise ship ever to visit the twin islands – to homeport this year, with more vessels set to follow suit next season. Although capable of accommodating even the largest mega vessels, Antigua Cruise Port and its neighbouring counterparts are placing greater emphasis on the luxury market, prioritising quality over quantity.
However, this isn’t the only thing they have in common. Considering themselves as partners rather than competitors, they recognise that with over 44 new builds currently on order, they all need ports to visit. And as the Caribbean represents 35 per cent of the global cruise industry, the region as a whole must come together to provide passengers with an exceptional experience from start to finish.
Collaboration is the name of the game. Accordingly, Antigua has begun interporting: a novel approach that involves passengers embarking at multiple ports within the region rather than just one. By working collaboratively, the islands are creating a seamless, high-quality experience for passengers while supporting each other’s tourism industry.
With portside improvements complete, the landside is now the focus. While Heritage Quay, home to over 50 duty-free stores, has undergone some improvements, the over 30-year-old structure is set for further upgrades. Adjacent to the Fifth Berth, an exciting upland development is in the works, complete with retail shops, restaurants, cafes and bars to be finished by the end of 2025 and a swimming pool and casino to be constructed in the second phase.
The reason for all these improvements? Like everything on Earth, first impressions are crucial, and this is especially the case in the cruise industry. A beautiful port can lure passengers to disembark. With up to 15 percent of passengers opting to stay onboard during port calls, it’s essential to entice as many as possible to explore the island’s wonders, with the consequent boost to the local economy.
But there are even more plans in place. The island is gearing up to promote itself as a port with three stops. The picturesque Falmouth Harbour and Barbuda on the sister island are poised to welcome some of the most luxurious ships – smaller vessels accommodating around 200 passengers and the mega yachts. The focus for these ports is on delivering a tailor-made and high-end experience, bringing together various stakeholders to provide the ultimate one-off experience these luxury passengers crave.