A 960-foot cruise ship with a capacity for 2,680 passengers arrived at the Port of Saipan yesterday morning.
Costa Atlantica, which was built in Helsinki, Finland and is operated by Costa Cruises in Genoa, Italy, stopped by Saipan during its 46-day South Pacific cruise. Costa Atlantica took up all the space at Baker Dock from 7am to 4pm yesterday.
The Costa Atlantica is one of 18 Spirit class cruise ships built in Helsinki with the Panamax form factor, which enable the ships to pass through the Panama Canal.
For this trip alone, the vessel has 1,900 passengers, according to Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Chris Tenorio.
“This is the first visit from Costa Atlantica. It has 1,900 passengers on board, not including the staff. It originally came from somewhere in Asia,” said Tenorio.
Saipan Shipping Company operations manager Jose T. Quan thinks that that—with improvements—Saipan is capable of accommodating cruise ships.
“The Port of Saipan has been servicing cruise ships for many years now. There are only a handful of cruise ships that call on Saipan within a year. There are more cruise operators inquiring due to the increase in travelers in general. Costa Cruises is one of those operators interested to make Saipan an ordinary call,” said Quan.
Quan thinks that with a proper cruise ship terminal the clearance process for the various government agencies involved in inspecting the cruise ship could lead to a better destination.
“Saipan needs to create a proper cruise ship terminal. …The clearance process requires coordination between six different government organizations that will deem a ship cleared upon arrival. Until this is created, the vessel agents will have to plan for additional resources to accommodate for the deficiencies due to a non-existent cruise ship terminal,” said Quan.
Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Chris Concepcion said that MVA is aware of the potential the cruise industry holds for the CNMI.
“This will provide a boost to our economy and we hope those onboard enjoy their short stay here and come back in the future. My team and I have been discussing the possibility of marketing the CNMI to cruise ships in our region but a lot of it will depend on our seaport capabilities and other logistical issues that inevitably arise from this type of industry,” said Concepcion.
“We are hopeful this can contribute to our overall economy at a time when hotel occupancy rates are at an all-time high. The Marianas offers a huge potential to cruise ships because we have not just one island but multiple islands that can be visited,” he added.
Concepcion wanted to assure that the ports on Saipan are capable of handling the huge cruise ships such as Costa Atlantica.
“Before we go out and market the CNMI as a prime destination, we need to ensure the seaport is able to handle them, we need to ensure Customs and Border Protection is able to process thousands of incoming passengers at one time, and more,” he said.