Antigua is expected to accommodate 720,000 cruise passengers in 2009 – a 20 percent increase over 2008, when the port had 600,000 passengers, compared to 700,000 in 2007 and 640,000 in 2006.

This year, the port will be getting nine additional calls from Holland America Line, as well as new calls by the Carnival Freedom and Victory, Grandeur of the Seas, Ventura, Caribbean Princess, Costa Atlantica, Island Star, and Amadea.

“Like everybody else, summer 2008 was down quite a bit, which impacted the overall numbers,” Avonelle H. Pole, cruise marketing consultant for the Antigua Pier Group, told Cruise Industry News. “However, we feel we are on track to meet our projections for 2009. But of course, that hinges on the state of the worldwide economy and its impact on the cruise business. We just have to continue to aggressively market Antigua and Barbuda and position ourselves accordingly.”

Antigua is also making some “cosmetic” changes, Pole said, including the addition of buoys equipped with solar panels to guide incoming and outgoing cruise vessels.