SAN JUAN – The Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, docked on Wednesday as Puerto Rican officials forecast that a record 1.7 million cruise ship passengers will visit the island in 2017.
Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who leaves office next month, led the reception committee at Pier 3 in San Juan Harbor, hailing the arrival of Royal Caribbean’s newest vessel ship as a boost to Puerto Rico’s ailing economy.
“This new cruiser is capable of transporting nearly 6,300 passengers and some 2,400 crew members, which makes it literally the new king of the seas,” the governor said, noting that the Harmony of the Seas is scheduled to make 24 voyages to Puerto Rico between now and April 2018.
Puerto Rico invested $8 million in modernizing Pier 3 to accommodate Royal Caribbean’s new class of giant cruise ships.
The first to make a port call in San Juan was the Quantum of the Seas, in December 2014, followed since then by the Anthem of the Seas, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas.
Garcia Padilla said the money spent on improving the port will generate much larger sums from the increase in tourism.
“Everyone benefits, from the area merchants to the taxi drivers, craftspeople, restaurants, shopping malls and the complete line of tourist services,” he said.
Puerto Rican lawmakers recently voted to extend to 2018 a package of incentives for the cruise industry and official announced in October that Viking Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines were planning to add Puerto Rico to their itineraries.
Tourism accounts for more than 7 percent of Puerto Rico’s gross domestic product, according to the island’s government.