Puerto Rico celebrated on Nov. 30 the first day of cruise calls since rebounding from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and they along with the more than 7,000 cruisers did just that, celebrating with authentic Puerto Rican style during not only a parade through the historic cobblestone streets of Old San Juan displaying some of the destination’s culture, but also opportunities for the passengers to get hands-on experiences of it.
Everyone enjoyed from free salsa classes and rum and coquito tastings to dancing with the BatuPlena percussion bands and finding local goods at artisan markets.
The cruisers came from Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas and Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Conquest, and they are the first of many. In fact, Puerto Rico is still preparing to officially welcome its tourism doors on December 20, but San Juan is still expecting to welcome 58 cruise arrivals, along with over 110,000 passengers and an economic impact of roughly $25 million this November and December.
Puerto Rico is also celebrating the reopening of more than 100 hotels, including the iconic El San Juan, which are taking reservations for visitors both on land-based visits and enjoying extra time in Puerto Rico, with San Juan serving as a homeport. Freedom of the Seas is one of those homeporting vessels, and Carnival will resume sailing from San Juan as an embarkation port when Carnival Fascination begins its year-round seven-day Southern Caribbean schedule on February 18, after it finishes housing FEMA workers. Plus, just today Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic returned home for its cruises embarking from San Juan.
These numbers and events are impressive, but the truly remarkable thing is what these milestones and the return of tourism mean for the people of Puerto Rico, who rely heavily on tourism. Cruise tourism in San Juan alone directly generated $198 million during the 2014/2015 cruise year.
So there is no mystery why Puerto Rico is celebrating so enthusiastically, but the dancers and drummers seem to have even more energy in knowing that this tourism rebound came even sooner than expected and proved that the destination can handle even an unprecedented natural disaster.