PHOTO: Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas. (photo via Flickr/David Spinks)
In order to better accommodate Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, which will call San Juan home beginning in 2018, the cruise line and the Puerto Rico Ports Authority are joining hands to upgrade the Pan American II Pier in San Juan.
The project, which is estimated to bring in an extra $2.8 million in revenues to the Ports Authority, will focus on improving the boarding bridge, and enhancing and reconfiguring safety checkpoints, as well as adding passenger check-in desks.
Other projects that will be included in the revitalization are: upgrades to the restrooms; increasing the capacity of the baggage inspection area; further dredging of the dock area near the Pan American Wharf II; improvements to the mooring structure of ships; and other miscellaneous improvements. The goal is to optimize passengers’ experiences from the moment they dock in Puerto Rico.
This is not the first time that changes have been made to the port to accommodate Royal Caribbean’s ships. Three years ago, Pier 3 was lengthened to allow for Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, including the Harmony of the Seas, which made its inaugural journey into San Juan late last year.
The 154,407-gross ton Freedom of the Seas will leave her current home of Port Everglades, Fla., on May 5, 2018, and reposition herself at the end of the sailing. In doing so, she will become the largest cruise ship to homeport in San Juan, well-known as the gateway for passengers to the southern Caribbean thanks in part to its geographical location and its position as a leader in airlift to other destinations throughout the region.
The Freedom of the Seas, which can carry up to 4,515 passengers, will sail week-long journeys throughout the Southern Caribbean. Passengers disembarking from the Freedom of the Seas in San Juan will find themselves with a wealth of choices to keep them happy and entertained, including Monster, a new zipline at the Toro Verde adventure park, and the nearby Vivo Beach Club. Those not wishing to go too far afield can stroll through the colorful streets of Old San Juan or enjoy one of the many restaurants and bars in town.
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Onboard, the Freedom of the Seas offers passengers the chance to show off their Hang 10 skills on the FlowRider Surf Simulator. Other activities for adventurous passengers include a rock-climbing wall and ice-skating rink, while those so inclined will want to practice their putting on the nine-hole miniature golf course.
In addition to visiting San Juan, the ship will have ports-of-call in Castries, St. Lucia; St. Johns, Antigua; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Oranjestad, Aruba to name a few.
For fiscal year 2015-2016, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. brought a total of 574,140 passengers into the San Juan port, a figure that is expected to increase to approximately 700,000 passengers by 2018. In total, Puerto Rico is expecting to see more than 1.6 million cruise passengers in 2017-2018.