Celebrity homeporting now a reality for Port St. Maarten

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Mega cruise ships homeporting in St. Maarten is now a reality. On Saturday, June 5, 2021, cruise lines can opt to start their cruise voyages around the Caribbean from the island of St. Maarten. The first major cruise line to do so is Celebrity Cruises.

Homeporting for mega cruise ships St. Maarten has been in the planning for many years. On a number of occasions in the past, a push was made to start with homeporting. However, for a myriad of reasons it was never started. Security at the port was one of the major hurdles that had to be tackled. Only smaller cruise vessels have been able to do homeporting out of St. Maarten. Nevertheless, Port St. Maarten, together with the Ministry of Tourism (TEATT) and Celebrity Cruises, finally made homeporting from St. Maarten for major cruise lines a reality.

On Saturday, June 5, 2021, the Celebrity Millennium set sail from St. Maarten with some 2000 cruise passengers. These passengers arrived at SXM Airport on a new American Airlines air service from out of Dallas. The Princess Juliana International Airport saw the first cruise passengers for the local homeporting arriving on a total of 19 flights with 2147 passengers.

According to a statement issued by SXM Airport on their Facebook page, the Arrival Hall area has been specially upgraded to accommodate the increased demand for the season. The newly relocated setup of both the VSA COVID-19 screening and Immigration booths were rearranged for the capacity increase.

On Wednesday, June 2, 2021, Port St. Maarten issued a press release announcing that the team at Port St. Maarten and all relevant service providers at the Cruise Facilities were ready to welcome Celebrity Millennium guests “as they embrace the magic of the destination on Saturday, June 5, the day the vessel sets sail for a seven-night cruise itinerary in the Caribbean.”

“June 5 marks the official launch of Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Millennium homeporting operations out of Port St. Maarten. Port St. Maarten has recently re-invested into the Homeport Terminal moving from a temporary facility to a hybrid structure with strengthened concrete walls, therefore allowing the terminal to be rebuilt within a shorter period of time (down from one month to one week) after the threat of a hurricane has passed leading to a swift rebound once the destination is back up to par.” according to the press release.

“The updated terminal is air-conditioned and offers state of the art amenities based on industry standards within a 1500 square meter structure; there are 12 check-in counters and a luggage screening machine; bar and restaurant serving drinks and snacks on sale for passengers; VIP section with seating for 50-80 passengers; complimentary Wi-Fi; facilities for the disabled; and much more.”

“There is also parking for 60 vehicles and three touring car options; line up zone for taxis, with direct access to the main entrance from Homeporting Terminal; a spacious lobby area with 600 seats for passengers, information screens; ceiling fans; high-end transport trolley/train; and toilet facilities.”

Port St. Maarten Management is issuing a call to action to local artists who have been painting appealing murals throughout the country to do the same across the port thereby showcasing once again their talents to thousands of cruise passengers in the coming months and years.

Port St. Maarten Management would like to thank all those who have been involved in preparing to welcome the guests of Celebrity Millennium. “There was a lot of planning, support and collaboration between many in order to see this to fruition.  We say thank you to everybody who assisted, and we are now looking forward to a successful cruise homeporting operation during the coming weeks,” Port St. Maarten Management said on Wednesday.

Port St. Maarten Management added that Celebrity Millennium would be the largest homeporting vessel to date to carry out operations at the country’s main seaport, the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facility in Point Blanche.

The Port St. Maarten Team has had numerous deliberations with a number of stakeholders over the past months in preparing for cruise resumption and the realities in the first phases. 

Princess Juliana International Airport is the aviation gateway to the country, and their role in preparing for the Celebrity Millennium guests was essential in making sure the logistics for this homeporting operation are in place from one port of entry to the next.

The homeporting operations will generate spin-off business activity in the tropical paradise for restaurants, tour operators, taxis, car rental companies, and many other varied small and medium-sized business operations and entrepreneurs, that will lead to a considerable amount of money being pumped into the economy during the eight-week homeporting operation out of Port St. Maarten.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Celebrity Millennium at Port St. Maarten.

On Friday, June 4, 2021, the Minister of TEATT, the honorable Ludmilla De Weever issued the following statement in regards to the launch of the largest homeporting operation that the destination has ever seen. The minister explained that the operation will commence on Saturday, June 5, at the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facilities in Point Blanche when Celebrity Cruise Lines 2200-passenger capacity Celebrity Millennium departs for a one-week cruise out of Port St. Maarten.

Celebrity Millennium will be a landmark at Port St. Maarten every week as the vessel picks up and drops off passengers for the next eight-plus weeks generating a considerable amount of economic activity for the destination over this extended period due to this deployment.

On Saturday morning there will be the Homeporting Inauguration ceremony to kick off this historical first for the country.

Speeches will be given by a number of dignitaries, namely the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT), Director of Tourism, a representative from Port St. Maarten, a representative of the Cruise Line, and the Prime Minister.

“The homeporting of cruise ships out of St. Maarten is an integral part of the country’s efforts in collaboration with Port St. Maarten and the Princess Juliana International Airport in promoting fly-cruise from the country.

“The continual development of homeporting marks another significant milestone in our destinations longstanding and valuable relationship with the cruise industry.

“St. Maarten is well-positioned to further develop more fly-cruise deployments, serving as a hub for the region in the North-Eastern Caribbean. We will continue to work diligently with our partners both local and abroad in building sustainable growth and provide further opportunities for our cruise and hospitality workers,” Minister of TEATT Ludmila de Weever said on Friday.

The country will be getting a lot of exposure during this momentous occasion from the international media as well as social media influencers during the inaugural homeporting launch.

Media organizations include CBS News, The New York Times, ABC News, Cruise Critic, Travel Agent Magazine, The Cruise Guy, In the Loop Travel, The Points Guy, and Travel Age West.

The country can expect a wealth of media coverage in its primary travel market of the United States, further contributing to the awareness of Maagical St. Maarten and further enticing travelers to choose the island as a vacation hotspot this summer and the upcoming winter season.

The homeporting of the Royal Caribbean Group (RCG) vessel is at the forefront of building St. Maarten’s presence for large-scale homeporting operations for the foreseeable future.

St. Maarten is already a premier cruise destination in the North Eastern Caribbean which has evolved over the past decades.

The island will continue to be a leading pacesetter in the cruise industry offering and delivering memorable destination experiences as the resumption of cruising kicks off.

Photo caption: The above photo and the top of the Celebrity Millennium docked at Port St. Maarten on Saturday, June 5, 2021, for the start of the homeporting operation has been provided with the compliments of Fly4U.

Video caption: Promo video for the Celebrity Cruises from St. Maarten.

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Terrance Rey
Terrance Rey is owner and managing director of Let’s Travel, Travel Anywhere and AirStMaarten. Terrance Rey has 22 years experience in the travel business as a travel agent, tour operator, charter broker and as an internet travel entrepreneur. You can email Terrance Rey directly via terrance@anykeyservices.com with any questions you may have relating to St. Maarten/St. Martin.
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