Sunday, June 24, 2018

Corey's Caribbean Story - A Celebrity Cruise Fit for a King

Hi everyone - What do you think?  Its for the Celebrity Contest Please let me know by writing to  Please let me know by June 27th or 28th.

Corey's Caribbean Story - A Celebrity Cruise Fit for a King 
*Updated June 25, 2018

Every cruise is a confluence of experiences. There are the people who have booked a room and are looking for a week away from jobs, routines, and maybe the weather. In return, we get to enjoy a week potentially disengaged from our everyday lives, surrounded by perks, pampering and peace that we sometimes wish were more abundant in our lives. And while the experiences for the guests are almost universally wonderful, the cruise ship not only represents an escape from the everyday, but a critical part of the local economy. When a local pilot gets onboard a cruise ship to steer the vessel into port, the local economy gets a boost that few other entities could deliver all at once. It is this approach that is driving my Caribbean cruise story as I design a great tour that Celebrity Cruises could offer. Instead of designing a Caribbean cruise focused on new ports or new experiences, lets seek out ways to make the biggest impact into the people at the destinations we would visit. 

Celebrity Equinox at sea - February 19th, 2018

Many years ago, I worked at a museum in upstate New York. It was a very important tourist destination about four hours north of New York City. The need for tourists for the organization to make its annual payroll was critical. So much that our goal for attendance was a key part to our database password. And while tourists were critical for our operation, it was more so for the people who worked in the local hotels, restaurants and shops. When your entire year was made or lost in the span of a few short months - it can be a very stressful way to live. Once you have worked in a tourism economy, you realize that it is a fickle and risky way to earn a living. A few bad weeks and some unfortunate timed storms can change your fortune. 

Imperfect Storms - Irma and Maria and their Impact in the Caribbean

Speaking of bad storms, last year, we had an awful hurricane season in the North Atlantic. Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, it wreaked havoc on the residents on a few islands in particular as both storms traveled the same path. Earlier this year, I was fortunate to travel on the Celebrity Equinox on the 7 day cruise of the Eastern Caribbean. Our February 21st sailing was only the second Celebrity ship to visit St. Maarten since the storm. We also visited San Juan, Puerto Rico. At both stops, we were thanked profusely about visiting their island. We went out on excursions, bought souvenirs, ate meals and otherwise gave an infusion into their economy that gave some much needed normalcy to these two economies. In my years as a cruise ship tourist, I recall many pleasant experiences. However, I do not recall people thanking us for stopping at their island. Just being there was important to reverse the damage done by the category 5 winds and power outages that ravaged both locations. Many of these islands lost almost their entire peak season in the fall and winter of 2017-2018. 

Out and About in Philipsburg, St. Maarten (SXM) - Tuesday February 20, 2018
The Importance of Tourism in the Caribbean

The tourism industry is the single most important element in the islands and one that the cruise lines impacts and supports directly. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the "...Travel & Tourism contributes 15% of the Caribbean's GDP and 13.8% of employment. "However, in around half of the countries analysed, the sector accounts for over 25% of GDP - more than double the world average of 10.4%." Furthermore, "Research suggests that recovery to previous levels could take up to four years, and if this is the case, the region will miss out on over US$3 billion over this timeframe." (see: When a sector of any economy as large as tourism in the Caribbean is hurt, the entire economy suffers. And while many properties were damaged and remained closed during the aftermath of these two storms, cruise ships present a tremendous opportunity to help rebuild these economies. hey bring in thousands of visitors each week without requiring hotel rooms. 

Building the Perfect Itinerary

So in building an itinerary, I wanted to create a trip that not only provided a tremendous opportunity for the guests, but one that created a well needed boost to the local economy that had been suffering since these two massive storms. We could call it the Celebrity ROI Cruise for two reasons. First, since we are treated like royalty by Celebrity, we can draw upon the French meaning of roi - or king. Second, we could also look at ROI, or return on investment, to show that these stops will boost into the local economy. 

So Let's leave from Fort Lauderdale or Miami - either are OK!

Celebrity Equinox Leaving the Port of Miami (Miami, Florida) - February 17, 2018
Celebrity Equinox Leaving the Port of Miami (Miami, Florida) - February 17, 2018

First Stop - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Our first stop is San Juan, Puerto Rico. San Juan and the island of Puerto Rico is slowly recovering from the twin hits of Irma and Maria and many months later, are still not where they once were. Getting tourists onto the island will help boost the economy is a very positive way. I would love to see the cruise ship spend the night in port and leave the following afternoon, so guests could take two excursions and learn more about the island. This would also allow guests to take in the nightlife of San Juan and a great dinner on shore. Best of all, the guests would have enough time to visit Castillo San Felipe del Morro and the rest of the beautiful San Juan National Historic Site.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro from the Celebrity Equinox as it Entered the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico - February 19th, 2018

Second Stop - U.S. Virgin Islands

Our second stop is Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is another United States territory that suffered tremendously in the storms. I've never been to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and would love to see the heritage and learn more about the sugar industry on the island and elsewhere in the Caribbean.  

Pictures from the Caribbean Scenic Railway Tour on St. Kitts - February 21, 2018

Third Stop - St. Maartin

Our last stop is St. Maartin. In an ideal scenario, we would also spend the night on this island nation that would give guests a broader opportunity to explore and shop on the island. It would also enable guests to do take a second excursion and maybe spend time on the French side of the island. Or, it might allow people to undertake one cultural and one adventure excursion. And a longer visit could ensure some good plane watching at Maho Beach. 

Plane Watching at Maho Beach, Philipsburg, St. Maarten (SXM) - Tuesday February 20, 2018
Every trip is an opportunity to explore. Every cruise gives the guests an opportunity to see something new and enrich themselves personally. This itinerary might be a bit different. While it definitely enriches us and provides each and every one a great experience onboard a Celebrity ship, it provides real impact into three economies that really need the boost. And having a series of enrichment lectures that are focused on this topic (as well as storms in the Caribbean) might be a great activity for days at sea (I know a guy who would love to do these)!  If we can enjoy life while making a positive impact into the world, it just seems like too good of an opportunity to pass up! 

Bon Voyage!

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