Cruise arrivals up this holiday season

An unusually large number of cruise passengers are scheduled to descend on Grand Cayman in the days leading up to Christmas and the New Year. 

Between Dec. 23 and 31, as many as 82,912 cruise passengers will arrive at Cayman’s port. In contrast, during the same time period last year, 66,924 passengers arrived. 

So far, Dec. 30 looks set to be the busiest day before the New Year, with five ships in port, carrying up to 16,642 passengers. Christmas Eve is also a big day for arrivals, with five ships in port carrying an expected 14,310 passengers. 

Downtown congestion 

Those planning to travel through downtown George Town in the next week-and-a-half should also expect high levels of congestion on Dec. 23, 29 and 31. More than 10,000 possible passengers are scheduled to arrive on each of these days. 

“It’s good to see that we’ll have increased cruise numbers,” said Tortuga Rum Company owner Robert Hamaty. “We’re looking forward to a good season.” 

Mr. Hamaty predicted that the Caribbean will have a “bump” this season, not only in cruise arrivals, but air arrivals as well, as more people choose to travel to the Caribbean over destinations in Europe and the Mediterranean due to security concerns. 

The steady arrivals are good news for shops, restaurants and tour operators, especially since heavy rains this month have kept many passengers from disembarking from their cruise ships and coming ashore. 

Royal Palms manager Josh Brown said the whole island felt the effect of this month’s wet weather, and that the expected arrivals are “going to help us out.” 

Busy time of year 

“It’s definitely our busy time of the year,” Mr. Brown said. “As the closest beach bar to the port, we do get quite a lot of business from the cruise ships.” 

At Captain Marvin’s boat tour operation, director Melinda Ebanks said the holidays are always a busy time for the operator, which offers trips to Stingray City and other excursions. She said that while the company usually does not run tours on Christmas Day, this year it decided to run a few tours since there will be three ships in port that day. 

“We’re getting a good number of reservations,” Ms. Ebanks said. 

Three ships will be in port Sunday, bringing nearly 6,000 passengers to Grand Cayman. Such a high number of passengers arriving on a Sunday is very unusual. Sunday arrivals have exceeded 3,000 passengers only twice this year. This will be the biggest Sunday arrival for the year. 

While shops are typically not open on Sundays, some will be open this weekend. Cruise passengers arriving Sunday will be able to shop at the Caymania Duty Free shop and Island Companies stores, among others. 

Kirk Freeport stores are not open on Sundays, and will not be open this weekend. Penha Duty Free shops will also be closed Sunday, but will have extended holiday hours in the days leading up to Christmas and will be open until midnight Christmas Eve.