Updated: Oct 12, 2019
(quick edit as of 10-12-19 the ship will be dropping anchor in Port Royal Thursday the 17th rather than the 18th and will be in New Port Royal, not Old Port Royal and will no longer be visiting Pigeon Cay, but plans a stop in Mahogany Bay, Roatán)
Change is coming.
On Friday, October 18th, a cruise ship will drop anchor in Old Port Royal. The small ship, far smaller than the behemoths that cruise into port these days, will bring a just a few hundred passengers to visit and explore the East End of Roatán for a few hours before heading off to its next destination.
Other Bay Island spots on the ships itinerary include Guanaja, Graham’s Cay / Josh’s Cay and Pigeon Cays. Passengers will have just a few short hours at each stop, with both Guanaja & Graham's Cay on the 17th and Port Royal and Pigeon Cays both on the 18th.
(See info on this cruise and its itinerary HERE)
Another will visit Port Royal in December.
The ship, the Silver Explorer, is part of the Silversea line. They list the ship as:
Guests capacity: 144
Crew capacity: 118
Last refurbishment: 2018
Tonnage: 6 072 Tons
"Built in 1989 as World Discoverer II of now-defunct Society Expeditions, this 6,072-ton, 144-guest vessel was acquired by Silversea in 2007 and put through a multi-million-dollar renovation and upgrade before emerging in 2008 as the luxurious Prince Albert II. Silversea changed her name to Silver Explorer in April 2011."
The ships in the Silversea line are high luxury offering a more intimate cruising experience for their patrons, taking them to “off the beaten path” places. This certainly rings true of their visit to the Bay Islands. In terms of development and more typical resort or touristy locales, this end of Roatán and the Cays they will visit fit the bill.
But is this just the tip of the toe testing the waters? Will the development that has followed the big cruise ships around the Caribbean head this way? If you ask many locals they seem to be excited about the potential for jobs and income, others worry about a way of life that has been lost in so many other places, yet is still found here. Still others say many of the promises made by cruise lines and developers on the other side of the island have failed to come to life, with most of the income from the ships and their passengers only finding its way to a few and not into the hands of many Islanders.
At this point, even though we are property owners nearby, we don’t really have a strong opinion, feeling a bit too “new” to the area to understand all sides, perspectives and dynamics surrounding these changes. More importantly, we aren’t Honduran nor Islander. We don’t see this as our place yet, rather a place where we’ve been welcomed as guests, so swooping in and injecting our opinion just isn’t something we are ready for. We do see a lot of potential change though, and wonder how it will change what we do have and what we have access to.
There have been, and still are, rumors of a permanent cruise ship hub coming to Port Royal for some time now. Details have been practically non-existent - where, how big, when, will it be in New or Old Port Royal. Representatives of the Municipality of Santos Guardiola, where Port Royal is located, confirm that plans are underway for a cruise ship dock and port, but have been tight lipped about exactly where.
What is sure for now, though, is that tourists are coming and cruise ships are coming to the East End. The big ports and the big ships have been bringing folks to the western end of the island for years, accelerating over the past few. Resorts and excursion spots have sprung up to serve the hordes that disembark looking for action, adventure, time above and below the water, or just a drink on a sandy beach.
It’s easy for many to bemoan change, and it’s also obvious why they would. Pristine beaches, jungle, mountains and reef can be found here. For the locals and islanders there is a way of life that, in many ways, seems like fantasy out of a romance novel. Real working fishing villages with homes on stilts and a slow “island time” lifestyle. But is it what the people there really want? Just a couple of months ago, this past summer, Helene was hooked up to the electric grid from Roatán. Many parts of Roatán itself still don’t have electricity including where our home is - we are completely off-grid. These folks, at least the ones we've met and spoken to, seem excited about changes and hope that these changes will be a positive for them.
Much of what we've found in and around Roatán almost seems like a picture in time. A glimpse of what the small islands around The Caribbean once were before tourists began showing up by the millions. Before the cruise ships and resorts hit their shores. We've come to realize that the chance we have now to see this side of Caribbean life might be fleeting. While many aspects of life there is beautiful to see, it can come with struggle and poverty for those that live there. It's easy to visit from easier places to live, with electricity, air conditioning and the ability to hop on a plane and go home but then cry foul that things change.
The reality is change is inevitable and, for now, we appreciate our opportunity to visit and see what is the East End of today. Our hope is that the folks who call Roatàn home, the folks who've befriended us and welcomed us on the island, benefit from the ever-changing growth that is happening all around the Bay Islands.