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SHIP ARRIVALS UP; LATE-NIGHT VISITS ON THE HORIZON

Dec. 15, 2003 – Cruise ship passenger arrivals for the first two and a half months of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 totaled 404,688 for St. Thomas and St. John, up from 330,372 a year ago, The West Indian Co. announced on Monday.
"The trend was as expected," WICO said in a release regarding the 22 percent increase, and there are a number of reasons to think it will hold in the coming months.
Starting on Feb. 25, the company said, it will begin assigning "Post Panamax" ships to berth on the newly expanded north side of the Crown Bay pier. The term refers to those classes of megaships that are so large they cannot pass through the Panama Canal.
"We have been reasonably assured by V.I. Port Authority officials that the north side of the Crown Bay pier will be available for berthing at the end of January," the company said.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 24, St. Thomas is to host the first call of the Queen Mary 2, the new luxury flagship vessel of Cunard Cruise Lines. The ship is scheduled to visit the island three more times over the next three months.
WICO also noted that two major cruise ships will regularly be staying in port at St. Thomas well after the sun sets, as will a number of other vessels on an irregular basis.
Holland America's Zuiderdam will remain in port until midnight — the departure time is listed as 11:59 p.m. — on Tuesdays from Jan. 6 through April 6.
Carnival's Glory will stay until 9 p.m. — also on Tuesdays — biweekly in January, February and March.
The cruise/sail vessel Wind Spirit also will be in port at St. Thomas until 11:59 p.m. on most Saturday nights through March and will stay that late off St. John on March18.
St. Thomas also will see stays until 9 p.m. by the Radisson Diamond on Feb. 19, until 10 p.m. by the Vistamar on March 8, until 11 p.m. by the Maasdam on Jan. 14, and until 11:59 p.m. by the Volendam on Feb. 27 and March 18, the Oriana on March 13, and the Wind Surf on April 4. The Seabourn Legend will stay off St. John until midnight on March 12, then overnight March 13 on St. Thomas for departure at noon the next day.
The late-night departure times "will lead to the reintroduction of evening shopping on St. Thomas," WICO predicted, echoing the sentiments of three downtown Charlotte Amalie business executives who are promoting "Destination Downtown Nite" on Tuesdays in the hope of capitalizing on the potential for appealing to late-staying cruise-ship visitors. (See the St. Thomas Source report "New event set to revive downtown nightlife".)

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