Smooth sailing ahead for Aruba cruise outlook

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ORANJESTAD, Aruba -- The cruise business here is booming, following a slight drop last fall after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Remigio Wever, director of the Aruba Cruise Tourism Authority, reported the destination welcomed 298 cruise ships carrying 487,296 passengers last year. This represents a dip of 0.5% in the passenger count from 2000.

Ship calls this year will total 308, bringing in at least 538,000 passengers, based on a projected load factor of 90% of available berths. This represents a 10% passenger increase over 2001, according to Wever.

Wever said the projection might be conservative because megaships, such as Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas, have exceeded the 90% load factor. If that trend continues, Aruba's cruise passenger arrivals could reach nearly 550,000 this year.

Appearances count, especially at cruise terminals. At Aruba's facility in Oranjestad, one of the three terminals has a new roof; its interior will be refurbished this spring.

Although Aruba's previous administration had studied a master plan to move the containership operation from Oranjestad to Barcadera, where the fishing fleet is based, the new government "is in no hurry" to proceed, according to Wever.

The master plan is "at a standstill because of the high costs involved in moving the existing operation and the time required for new construction," he added.

Moving the containership operation would open up more space for cruise ships calling at Oranjestad, according to Wever.

Although one or more cruise ships has docked at the containership site in the past, he said the facility has no passenger terminal.

For additional information regarding cruises to Aruba, travel agents can visit the Web at www.cruisearuba.com.

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