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Rhythm and Blues Cruise Brings 1,900 Passengers for Sightseeing, Music

Jan. 16, 2008 — After a five-year absence, the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise on Holland America's ship the Westerdam came back to St. Croix Wednesday.
Passengers smiled as they walked down the gangway, strolled along the Ann E. Abramson Pier, and then headed off on St. Croix adventures.
"I'm happy to have such a nice pier to pull into here for our passengers," said Capt. Peter Harris. "From the ship's bridge, town looks pretty nice right now, too."
Frederiksted was picturesque for the more than 1,900 passengers, from a calm aquamarine blue sea to the gingerbread details on the Victorian buildings on Strand Street. Mocko jumbies strutted and danced around the clock-tower plaza amongst the bright yellow allamanda and dark orange ixora flowers.
"This town is just so charming and tropical," said Melanie Butera of Ohio.
The ship's passengers and crew were welcomed with a meet-and-greet morning reception hosted by the Department of Tourism. On hand to greet Harris in the ship's bridge was Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of tourism, and Alvin Milligan, director of cruise activities for tourism. Representing Gov. John deJongh was Malcolm McGreggor. Nicholson-Doty presented Harris with a canvas gift bag with goodies from St. Croix, such as Cruzan rum.
"You will notice a lot of great changes made in the past five years," Nicholson-Doty said.
The captain agreed with her, saying the pier on St. Croix is now like the cream on top.
"Everyone has worked diligently to have Holland America come back to St. Croix," said Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, St. Croix administrator. "We're prepared and overjoyed to have you here."
During the meet-and-greet, which lasted until 1:30 p.m., entertainment was provided by the Educational Complex Quelbe Band, Sour Lab Steel Orchestra and the Complex Quadrille Dancers.
Festivities resumed at 6 p.m. with performances by Superior Court Rising Stars Steel Orchestra, Calypso Inc. Banjo Players, Native Rhythm Quelbe Band, the St. Croix Heritage Dancers, the West End Masqueraders, Rigidims Festival Troupe, Eddie Russell Latin Quelbe Band and mocko jumbies.
Our Town Frederiksted hosted an outdoor concert for cruise guests in the Paul E. Joseph Stadium starting at 2 p.m. Performers from the cruise were Maxx Cabello Jr., the Deanna Bogart Band, Terrance Simien, Shemekia Copeland, Coco Montoya and Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band.
Local artists Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights were also scheduled to play.
"This is a really cool local event," said cruise sponsor Chip Eagle, publisher of Blues Revue magazine. "One common bond here is the love of music. Our folks will love the cultural music."
Blues is like a big house with many rooms and all kinds of music, Eagle said. Music can be heard day and night during the whole cruise, according to Eagle.
"This is cruise number 13 for me, and the fourth time on St. Croix," said Steve Mustolivich of Las Vegas. "I love it here," he added, before he took off with a group of people heading to Sprat Hole Beach for a wedding of fellow passengers.
A number of taxis organized by Rick Carrington of Island Networks took people to Christiansted for prepaid tours arranged through the ship. Some people headed off to snorkel at Buck Island and others hit the beaches on the north shore.
St. Croix is the only stop on the seven-day cruise itinerary where entertainment and the venue for a concert is provided.
"The passengers have been looking forward to this island and listening to the music of local bands," Harris said. "I think they are happy to be here."
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