Aug. 15, 2006 – The number of cruise ships calling next year is down slightly, the West Indian Co. announced Monday. A total of 710 ships will call between Oct. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2007.
"But the passenger count will remain at par or higher," Alfred Lloyd, WICO operations director, said Tuesday.
He said that ships are getting bigger, so even though fewer ships will arrive, they'll carry more passengers.
Lloyd said the growing size of ships caused WICO to fill in the 125-foot gap between its dock and the dolphin where ships tie up. He expects construction to wrap up in October.
He said that this was necessary to provide a place for a second gangplank to be set.
Lloyd said that as of July 31, 1.65 million passengers arrived on St. Thomas-St. John. This compares to 1.75 million for the same period last year. He said in a news release that cruise ships are expanding their routes to other parts of the world.
The cruise ship agreement between the V.I. government and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association remains unsettled. FCCA President Michele Paige said Tuesday that she received a draft agreement from Gov. Charles Turnbull in May. She said the organization responded at the end of May.
She declined to release details.
Calls requesting comment to WICO Chief Executive Officer Edward Thomas and to George Goodwin, special assistant to the governor on public policy, were not returned.
Goodwin led a round of public hearings in April soliciting public input on the cruise ship agreement.
The number of ships arriving on St. Thomas breaks down to 537 ships in the winter season that runs Oct. 1, 2006, through April 30, 2007. This compares to 522 for the same period the previous year.
In the 2007 summer season, 173 ships will call compared to 191 during summer 2006.
Lloyd said that far fewer ships will homeport in San Juan this year, which will continue to have a negative impact on southern and deep Eastern Caribbean itineraries. Only four ships will homeport in San Juan in the coming year, with the rest leaving from mainland ports.
However, more than 76 percent of those ships will sail far enough south to reach the Virgin Islands.
"It leaves us in relatively good shape," Lloyd said.
He said passengers like to sail directly from the mainland because of security concerns that arose in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Additionally, some of the cruise ships will remain in port until 1 a.m., giving the passengers more opportunity for shopping and entertainment on St. Thomas.
Holland America's new ship, the Noordam, will begin its first full Caribbean season on Oct. 18, with cruises from New York. It will continue to call on St. Thomas through April 17, 2007.
The Norwegian Jewel will call every Thursday from Nov. 9, 2006, through April 19, 2007.
The Norwegian Spirit will continue calling through August 2007.
The Celebrity Cruises Millennium will return Dec. 14, 2006, with weekly visits through March 29, 2007, before returning to Europe.
The Carnival Liberty returns to the Eastern Caribbean on Dec. 12 and will sail all year.
The Freedom of the Seas will visit St. Thomas for the first time on May 9, 2007.
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