Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s 3,114-passenger Adventure of the Seas will call in St. Thomas on November 10— the first ship to return to the destination following the crippling September storms.
Conversely, Carnival Cruise Lines officials say the company’s ships won’t return to St. Thomas until January 2018, the same month officials anticipate the line will resume calls at St. Maarten.
Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president, recently announced November 30 as the date for the company’s resumption of calls in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Duffy said calls at Carnival’s port in Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos will resume “in less than two weeks.”
U.S Virgin Islands government officials are quickly preparing for the November 10 Royal Caribbean call despite continuing struggles with issues that include a widespread lack of electricity, damaged roads, badly damaged infrastructure, sunken boats hampering navigation and several beaches considered unsafe for swimming according to media reports.
Royal Caribbean is opting to return to St. Thomas next month following company executives’ tour of the island’s port facilities, infrastructure, shopping areas and attractions. The company is providing significant resources to assist government agencies and private sector groups with the restoration of Magen’s Bay beach, a popular stop for cruise passengers, said Adam Goldstein, Royal Caribbean’s COO.
Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ tourism commissioner, said downtown stores are expected to be open for business on November 10 following recent meetings with business community leaders. Based on an assessment last week, 11 St. Croix beaches, six on St. Thomas and five on St. John were deemed safe for swimming, officials said.
She said that over the coming weeks, “20 to 25 ship calls” will follow Royal Caribbean’s November 10 arrival.
“As we move forward from September’s historic storms, we are laser-focused on improving and enhancing the overall tourism product, and creating an environment that stimulates economic growth and employment for our residents,” said Kennneth Mapp, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ governor.
Local press reports note that while Royal Caribbean contracts with the U.S. Virgin Islands Port Authority for ships to dock at St. Thomas’ Crown Bay facility, several other cruise lines will contract with the West Indian Co (WICO) to dock ships at St. Thomas’ Havensight facility. WICO president Clifford Graham told local media he is negotiating with other lines to return to St. Thomas in November.
Meanwhile, in her announcement of Carnival’s planned January return to St. Thomas and St. Maarten, she described the destinations as among “the few remaining ports that had not yet been added back to our itineraries following the recent hurricanes.”
Nicholson-Doty said preparations for Royal Caribbean’s arrival continue and more meetings with the business community are also being planned.
“Welcoming cruise visitors back to the U.S. Virgin Islands is key to our economic recovery,” she said.