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Thursday, February 22, 2024


July 31, 2001 – St. Thomas was No. 1 in the world for cruise-ship traffic in the year 2000, as it also was the year before, according to the Lloyds Cruise International report for June/July 2001.
That's the good news the West Indian Co. put out Tuesday.
Even better news — this from WICO itself — is that cruise ship arrivals in the first seven months of 2001 are up by 14 percent over a year ago — standing at 1,148,126 this year compared with 1,007,407 in 2000.
And, according to a WICO release, "Based on current studies, this created an increase of $85 million in economic activity over the similar period in 2000."
Total passenger spending to date this year is $696 million, the release said, while "our nearest competitor in the industry," Sint Maarten, reported combined earnings from both overnight and cruise passengers for the year 2000 at $479 million.
More good news is that the 2001-02 season for the St. Thomas-St. John district will bring two new ships, one of them an eagle class — the largest passenger ships afloat — that will be calling year-round. And for the 2002-03 season, St. Thomas will be a port of call for five more new ships, one of them an eagle-class vessel.
Meantime, next summer has "the strong possibility" on alternate weeks "of at least one ship every day for one week and then followed by ships for five days the next week."
All of which has WICO president and chief executive officer Edward Thomas projecting a record 1.9 million passenger arrivals in the district this calendar year, and more than 2 million in 2002.
(The release notes that WICO "continues to work closely with the hotel industry" in efforts to see that "a large percentage" of cruise ship visitors return as overnight guests.)
Now, for the bad news.
St. Croix arrivals will be down significantly in the coming season, with the number of calls dropping to 103 from 154 in 2000-01. This is mainly because the Holland America line has discontinued the island as part of its itinerary and because the Nordic Empress will call every other week rather than weekly, the WICO release said.
But even St. Thomas has cause for concern in the foreseeable future, for two reasons, Thomas said.
First, the fastest area of growth in the region for cruise lines now is the Western Caribbean — essentially the Cayman Islands and Mexico's Yucatan, and perhaps Jamaica, the Bahamas and/or Hispaniola. St. Thomas is a part of the Eastern Caribbean circuit.
The reason is that "the cruise lines are now tapping into the heavy drive markets of the Southwest for their clientele," the WICO release states, referring to travelers who would drive to their point of embarkation, rather than fly, as they must do for cruises that commence in Puerto Rico, for example. "The gulf port cities of Houston, Galveston, Tampa and especially New Orleans are becoming major embarkation points" for both full week and three- and four-day cruises. Islands in the Western Caribbean are closer to those port cities.
Second, Thomas noted that there are again efforts within Congress to lift the ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba. He said that within as little as four years of that happening, "the infrastructure of Cuban cruise ports" could create "a significant threat to other destinations in the Caribbean."
The St. Croix situation
"The problem with St. Croix as a key destination remains an issue," the release states, and Thomas has written to Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards "suggesting that the government's public relations company link up" with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association's marketing committee "to design a special promotional program for that island."
The 2001-02 season opens on St. Croix with the arrival of the Infinity on Oct. 14.
One bit of good news for St. Croix, subject to confirmation in the spring: The Galaxy will be a regular Sunday visitor, and the Carnival Victory will continue to call. This, the release states, ensures that the island can hold Harbor Night mini-carnival events year-round.
Another: The 2002-03 season will bring the new Zuiderdam to St. Croix on Tuesdays.
Where the territory stands
In second place behind St. Thomas (which had 1.64 million passengers) on the Lloyds list for 2000 is the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico (1.48 million), where Cozumel is the main port of call and the Mayan ruins are a major attraction. That's a significant spread, but Mexico is moving up fast. In third place is Miami (1.44 million), the world's largest homeport for cruise lines.
Nassau (1.40 million) in the Bahamas moved from fifth place in 1999 to fourth last year. And San Juan, Puerto Rico (1.28 million), slipped from third to fifth. The next most popular ports in 2000 were Grand Cayman; Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Fla.; Sint Maarten and Juneau, Alaska.
What lies ahead for St. Thomas-St. John
The coming season will see the first visits to St. Thomas of the new eagle-class Adventure of the Seas and the Carnival Pride; both will continue calling year-round.
The Adventure's enticements include an ice-skating rink, a rock-climbing wall and the first-ever staterooms with an interior view — looking down on the "street life" of the Royale Promenade of on-board shops. The mega-ship can carry up to 3,838 passengers in double- and three-quarter-occupancy cabins.
The Pride, which can accommodate 2,124 passengers, features a dining room with a name St. Thomas residents can identify with — the Normandie — plus a reservations-only supper club called David's that has as its decor showpiece a 12-foot replica of Michelangelo's masterpiece of that name.
In addition, the Infinity, Summit, Radiance of the Seas and Sea Princess will be new seasonal callers. And the Millennium and Norwegian Sky, which visited on alternate weeks last season, will call weekly in the coming one.
Noticeable by its absence will be the blue, twin-smokestack Norway, a year-round visitor since the 1980s, which is being repositioned to Europe in September.
The Virgin Islands cruise ship season officially begins Oct. 5, by WICO's reckoning, with the return from its summer Alaska base of the Dawn Princess. The number of scheduled calls for St. Thomas-St. John are 55 in October, 88 in November, 111 in December, 123 in January, 110 in February, 139 in March and 93 in April.
Although next summer's schedule won't be certified until the Seatrade conference next March, plans call for the Grand Princess to return for another summer season and the Galaxy to be a weekly Friday caller, the WICO release states.
For the 2002-03 season, new ships scheduled to make their first calls at St. Thomas are the Navigator of the Seas (an eagle-class vessel), Constellation, Zuiderdam, Coral Princess and Norwegian Dawn.

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