Confusion Over Cruise Ships Returning to U.S. Virgin Islands

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The resumption of sailings in the Caribbean basin this June spells good news for the Caribbean islands that decided to open their border for the ships. Unfortunately, for one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean, it looks this will not be allowed. The U.S. Virgin Islands are, after all, U.S. territory and therefore governed by the CDC.

This creates a situation where the British Virgin Islands are happily accepting cruise ships this June, while the U.S. Virgin Islands, a few miles to the west, is unable to do so.

No Green Light Has Been Issued

The U.S. Virgin Islands are eager to get started again. According to the West Indian Company Ltd in a local report, there is no green light yet for cruises to resume, and this will likely not happen until the CDC lifts or proceeds with the Conditional Sailing Order.

West Indian Company Ltd. Interim President and CEO Anthony Ottley said:

“Unfortunately for us, it is still questionable when we will be seeing ships to St. Thomas and St. Croix. Royal Caribbean had notified us of their plans to start sailing on June 12, they will be utilizing ships sailing out of the Bahamas, Bermuda and St. Maarten.”

“Unfortunately for the U.S. Virgin Islands at this particular time, it is a fact that we are governed under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules. Which negates us from having the ability at this point to berth those ships on any sort of itinerary.”

Cruise Ship at St. Thomas
Photo Credit: Solarisys /

Will We See Ships In St. Thomas?

Does this mean that Royal Caribbean thinks the Conditional Sail Order will be lifted sooner rather than later? No, not likely. Neither Royal Caribbean nor Celebrity Cruises have any voyages scheduled calling on the U.S. Virgin Islands in June.

Also Read: Things to Do in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

It seems then that Royal Caribbean has been in exploratory talks with the islands to see if a call is possible once the Conditional Sailing Order has been lifted. This is made clear by Royal Caribbean’s Jayne Halcomb, the director of Destination Development for the Americas and Caribbean:

“We are eager to get back there, and we are confident that with the progress and success of the [COVID-19] vaccine and our track record operating safely, that we will be back to the U.S. Virgin Islands,”

The fact that the British Virgin Islands will see calls from several cruise lines this summer will become extra painful for a group of islands that significantly depends on income from the thousands of cruise passengers who usually pass through each day.

The Impact Of Cruises On The USVI

Based on the USVI Department of Tourism data, 1.8 million cruise passengers arrive aboard cruise ships during a typical year. The U.S. Virgin Islands were fifth in the Caribbean with $29.2 million per year in cruise line expenditures, while passenger spending accounted for $276 million.

With these numbers, there is no surprise the Virgin Islands are eager to have a return of cruising as soon as possible. Unfortunately for the USVI, the decision lies not with the Islanders but with a government entity thousands of miles away.

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