April 24, 2002 Carnival Cruise Lines ships will stop calling on St. Croix because of continuing crimes against passengers and a lack of demand to visit the island, Carnival officials confirmed Wednesday.
The Carnival Victory made its last call on St. Croix on Wednesday. After the Carnival Triumph visits St. Croix on May 11, the cruise line's ships will no longer call on the island, Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said.
"We have no immediate plans to return to St. Croix," she said. "We have been having an ongoing problem with crimes against passengers on St. Croix."
Carnival's planners also did not see St. Croix as one of its top destinations, she added. Carnival ships visited the island once a week during the winter tourist season and once every two weeks in the off-season.
Carnival accounted for about one-third of the 74 cruise ship visits to St. Croix during the past tourist season, according to Ray Hamilton of the shipping agent Merwin Shipping and Trading. Carnival was the only line expected to make stops at the island between May and October.
"This will be terrible for the island, not just for the taxi drivers, but for everybody," said Matthew Frederick, a taxi driver who relies heavily on the passengers' business. "The island is dependent on Carnival."
Each cruise ship passenger spends about $175 at each port of call, said Rick Moore, the former chief economist for the territory. He estimated that Carnival's pulling out of St. Croix would cost the island about $34 million a year.
"This will have a huge impact throughout the economy: taxis, tour operators, dive shops, retailers, everyone," said Frank Fox, the president of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce. "We're in a state of shock."
In December, Carnival executives said they were considering stopping calls to St. Croix because several passengers had been the victims of assaults and robberies. Police stepped up patrols around the cruise ship dock in Frederiksted on days the ships were in, but at least one cruise ship worker was robbed recently.
High crime is a continuing problem in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which in 2001 had a per capita murder rate nearly five times higher than the national average.
St. Croix has gotten fewer than 200,000 cruise ship passengers a year, a small fraction of the approximately 1.7 million who visit St. Thomas, according to Port Authority statistics.
Carnival Cruise Lines continues to see St. Thomas as a premier destination and does not plan to change the number of visits there, de la Cruz said.
She added that the concerns about crime on St. Croix came up months ago, long before Gov. Charles W. Turnbull told the Port Authority to pull out of an agreement with Carnival Corp. (the parent company of Carnival and several other cruise lines) and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. for the companies to expand the Crown Bay dock on St. Thomas and develop an adjacent shopping area.
"That had absolutely nothing to do with this decision," de la Cruz said Wednesday.
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