• The San Juan Daily Star

Amid virus surge, island to receive 13 cruise ships this week

The docks in San Juan will host over 20,000 visitors on13 cruise ships this week amid a surge in coronavirus infections on the island.

By The Star Staff

Despite the rise in infections and hospitalizations due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (CTPR) Director Carlos Mercado Santiago announced Wednesday that the docks in San Juan will host over 20,000 visitors on 13 cruise ships this week.

“Thanks to the compliance by cruise lines with the measures and protocols established at both the federal and state levels, today we can celebrate that our visitor economy continues to increase, always considering the health and safety of both residents and travelers,” Mercado Santiago said in a written statement. “We will continue negotiations with our industry partners to ensure that in 2022 the San Juan docks will be full of cruise ships again, in addition to increasing the number of visits to other ports on the island and maximizing the impact of the sector on the local economy.”

Wednesday, he noted, was the day with the highest traffic, with an estimated 9,500 passengers arriving starting at 9 a.m. aboard Carnival Mardi Gras, Carnival Conquest, and Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam and Celebrity Apex. Those vessels joined Norwegian Sky, which had been in Puerto Rico at a technical stop without passengers since last Monday. Wednesday’s visits, the statement said, represented an estimated economic impact of $1.2 million in various product and service sectors such as transportation, food, retail, guided tours, and other sectors that directly and indirectly serve the tourism sector.

In addition, to reinforce security, the Puerto Rico government requires that every cruise ship that arrives on the island is carrying a fully vaccinated eligible population. Vaccination rates exceed 98% among passengers and crew.

Likewise, when signing base port agreements, the requirement for antigen tests upon boarding is stipulated. The cruise companies have ensured that they have and require the strictest preventive measures for the safety of their crew and passengers, the statement said.

At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires these cruise lines to contract with local medical-hospital institutions to attend to any emergency situation.

“It should be noted that so far we have not had any medical emergency due to COVID-19 and this is largely due to compliance with all health protocols and established measures,” Mercado Santiago said.

Ports Authority Executive Director Joel Pizá Batiz stated that “the safety and health of our people are a priority, so when we sign agreements with the cruise lines we make sure, along with the Department of Health, to enforce all the safety measures that are in force.”

“We will continue working to recover and strengthen the cruise industry that arrives at our port, having as a priority the fulfillment of the executive orders and the established protocols,” he said.

Wednesday’s five cruise arrivals followed Silversea’s Silver Spirit, Regal Princess, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, Norwegian Epic, Seadream 2 and Silver Whisper, six cruises that docked in the port of San Juan last weekend, as well as the arrival today and Friday of the Viking Sea, Carnival Liberty, and a second visit of the Silver Spirit for a total of 14 visits in one week.

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