PORT ST. MAARTEN – Captain Rob Hempstead on Monday morning told Port St. Maarten Group (PSG) management, key industry stakeholders, and port stalwarts during a small reception – due to COVID-19 protocols – at the pier where Wonder of the Seas was docked, that St. Maarten is a premier port destination.
Capt. Hempstead, the man at the helm of the world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s 5th Oasis Class that made its inaugural call on Monday, has been sailing with Royal Caribbean International since 1999 and has served as Master aboard six ships since 2005. Capt. Hempstead has been visiting the destination for a long time when he was captain of the sister ship Symphony of the Seas.
Wonder of the Seas was in port with approximately 4,900 guests and is Royal Caribbean’s newest cruise ship which commenced with its inaugural sailing on March 4 out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, operating seven-night cruises.
Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry of TEATT) Hon. Roger Lawrence said on Monday: “It is a pleasure to welcome the largest cruise ship in the world, the oasis-class vessel, Wonder of the Seas to our friendly island of St. Maarten.
“It has been 13 years since St. Maarten welcomed the first Oasis-class vessel and St. Maarten has continued to be a pioneer in that regard and has been a favorite destination to the cruise industry. This is a great indication of our leading role as a destination and together with Port St. Maarten we aim to expand on our partnership within the industry.”
Port St. Maarten Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alexander Gumbs stated that: “Today is not only to celebrate cruise, but to also celebrate the holistic product we provide as a destination. The hard work of our crane operators and cargo stakeholders that provision the ships today, the taxi drivers as destination ambassadors, tour operators and retailers, we say thank you.
“Thank you in the sense that you make the product whole and assist with the ratings that we have today. Let St. Maarten not only be the destination that triggered an industry of innovation, but St. Maarten as the destination that will chart the way forward in terms of vacation experiences.
“Today we welcome the world’s largest “Wonder” a wonder that we’ve seen. Wondering for a long time with the fluidity of the industry. A wonder that was a dream and today it’s here as a reality.
“St. Maarten not by coincidence as a port of call but St. Maarten as the eastern Caribbean port of call. The port, and one of the only ports that can factually accommodate two of the largest class ships in the world on a single day. The port that has had and still gets weekly calls from sister ships. Today I thank the leadership, vice presidents, directors, and management from Royal Caribbean Group for their continuous and unwavering support to St. Maarten,” PSG CEO Alexander Gumbs said on Monday.
Wonder of the Seas itineraries will continue run through April until the vessel heads to Europe in May for summer Mediterranean cruises. Wonder of the Seas will return in November to Florida for Caribbean cruises.
The ship is 1,188 feet long, 210 feet wide, and a gross tonnage of 236,857. The cruise ship has a passenger capacity of over 6,000 guests at double occupancy. Occupancy numbers through March averaged around 45-50 per cent. Gumbs said that the port has noticed an uptick in that trend since the beginning of March. The crew onboard to serve the guests is 2,394, bringing the total capacity to over 9,200.
Royal Caribbean’s sister ship Symphony of the Seas, built in 2018, held the top position until Wonder of the Seas was launched at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique (Saint-Nazaire, STX France) shipyard.
The vessel has 17 decks and costs US$1.35 billion to construct. Sister ships are Allure, Harmony, Oasis, and Symphony of the Seas.