The new cruise ship terminal in Colón saw the embarkation of the first liner from its dock yesterday as the “Enchantment of the Seas” set sail for its first seven-day voyage from a Panama port.
The Royal Caribbean cruise ship is carrying nearly 2,600 passengers on a tour of the “ABC Islands” (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) and Colombia.
The opening ceremony was attended by Second Vice President Rubén Arosemena, who emphasized the economic benefits generated by the arrival of the cruise ship tourists, many of whom will stay in hotels both before and after their cruise.
The jobs generated by the port terminals and the possibility of supplying products to the ship are other ways in which a cruise translates into economic benefits for that part of the country.
The Enchantment of the Seas will depart 20 times from Colón, which will translate into cruises lasting through April.
Steve Tarazi, president of Colón 2000, the port that is hosting the cruise ship, said that the government invested $15 million in renovating the terminal, which can handle up to three cruise ship departures a week.
Royal Caribbean has already pledged to use the terminal for the next two years, and the company has shown an interest in establishing a long-term relationship with the port if passengers continue to show interest in cruises that begin and end there.
From the institutional point of view, Arosemena stressed the need to be efficient in providing services to cruise ship passengers, including in the areas of immigration and customs.
“All institutions must be well coordinated, so that the flow of tourists into the country is fast,” he said.
Arosemena predicted the arrival of new cruise lines interested in using Panama as its base port in both Colón and in the Pacific coast of the country.
Tourism officials indicated that there is a need to increase the number of flights into and out of the country if the country is to develop as a base for cruise ships.
The chairman of the Panamanian Association of Business Executives’ tourism commission, Alberto Quirós, stressed yesterday the need to build an airport in Colón with the ability to receive charter flights.
“It’s sad that the Civil Aviation Authority has not yet addressed this issue,” he said.
Royal Caribbean officials said that, so far, airline capacity has not been an issue. But they warned that if demand grows in the future, it needs to be expanded to keep the cost of tickets from going up.