Photo via Discover Newport

What had once been expected to be a robust cruise ship season in Newport, with more than 100 ships visiting the harbor, has now likely ended. 

Discover Newport has been notified by Destinations North America, a leading provider of a variety of services to cruise ships that it is canceling “all reservations we have with you for the entire season.”

Destinations North America says it provides services to 90 percent of the cruise lines throughout North America with customized shore excursions programs, turnaround services, port agency, land programs management, and destinations 

           “The entire season for cruise ships to the U.S. and Canada has been canceled,” DNA said. “On Friday, May 29th Canada issued a no dock order prohibiting ships to dock in Canada through Oct 31st.  As we are part of the US/Canadian itinerary, it is inevitable the US ports will be canceled also.  

“Cancellation confirmations have been received from Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Seabourn, Silversea, Carnival UK, Viking and Ritz Carlton,” he said.  “Norwegian Cruise Lines has yet to confirm cancellations; however, we believe it is inevitable they will cancel also.  If Norwegian Cruise Lines does choose to operate some cruises, then we will deal with it on an as-needed basis.

    “Therefore, it is with great disappointment and sadness that DNA must cancel all reservations we have with you for the entire season.  As partners in Newport tourism, we look forward to the 2021 season with the new normal securely in place.”

Before coronavirus, Newport was anticipating 3.3 million visitors this year, some 200,000 from more than 100 cruise ships.

This was to be a robust year for cruise travel to Newport and New England, Evan Smith, executive director of Discover Newport has said. It goes in five-year cycles, Smith said, and this was to begin an up cycle. The cruise season was to begin in April, with most ships expected in the fall. 

Most of the ships, Smith said, have international ownership and international crews. The largest carry 2,000 to 5,000 passengers, and a ratio of one crew per three passengers.

While in the overall scope of Newport tourism, the cruise industry represents a small portion of visitors, its real value may be in visibility.

“Visually, it seems very significant, but visitation is less than 1 percent of the entire year,” Smith said.

Smith has said that the cruise industry will need to “reinvent itself…cruise ships have gotten a lot of negative publicity,” some of which he said is “unfair,” with the number of illnesses on the cruise ships a small percentage of actual passengers.

Nonetheless, the industry has suffered, and Smith said, “they’re going to have to reinvent themselves, project a higher level of cleanliness and safety…the loyalty base is looking for significant improvement in terms of sanitation.”

Smith, DNA, and others in the travel industry are hopeful that turnaround comes in time for the cruise season that likely will not resume until the spring of 2021.

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.