Royal Caribbean International guests, as well as those sailing with other lines in the Royal Caribbean Group family, will soon be subject to a new fee when visiting the US Virgin Islands.
The new Capital Cost Recovery Charge was approved last week, and is likely to be applied to visitors from January 1, 2024 for visits to both St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Virgin Islands Passes New Cruise Visitor Fee
The Virgin Islands Port Authority Board of Governors has approved a $5 per passenger fee for cruise guests sailing on Royal Caribbean Group ships. The fee – a Capital Cost Recovery Charge (CCRC) – is intended to fund essential work to improve cruise port infrastructure that will better support visits from larger Royal Caribbean vessels.
Only ships that berth at the Austin “Babe” Monsanto Marine Terminal in Crown Bay, St. Thomas and the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility in Frederiksted, St. Croix will be subject to the fee.
“We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Royal Caribbean Group as we move forward in the development of these exciting projects that will benefit the territory and strengthen this U.S. Virgin Islands’ position as a premier destination,” said Carlton Dowe, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Port Authority.
The next step is for the Virgin Islands Port Authority to negotiate with Royal Caribbean Group as to how to implement the new fee.
All ships in the Royal Caribbean Group that dock at the appropriate berths will be charged the per-passenger fee. The Royal Caribbean Group includes Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises, as well as 50% holdings of TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, and 49% of Pullmantur Cruises.
Typically, port taxes and fees are assessed to guests in addition to their cruise fare. Different ports have a wide range of fees that can add up to $100 or more per passenger per cruise, depending on how many ports of call a ship visits on any given itinerary.
New Port Improvements
One of the key improvements the new fee is intended to fund is to complete extensive dredging in St. Croix. At the moment, only Voyager-class ships or smaller vessels can safely dock at the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility in Frederiksted.
With additional dredging, the larger Freedom-class ships would be able to visit the port of call, broadening the scope of itineraries Royal Caribbean International could offer to cruise guests.
Voyager-class ships measure up to 140,000 gross tons, while Freedom-class vessels measure roughly 156,000 gross tons. There are just three Freedom-class ships – Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, and Independence of the Seas.
Increasing the capacity at the dock would also bring more tourism to St. Croix, bolstering the local economy and offering the destination as a highlight to even more travelers.
Why Just Royal Caribbean?
It is interesting that the new Capital Cost Recovery Charge would only be applied to Royal Caribbean Group ships. Other cruise lines regularly visit both St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Cruise lines that are not part of Royal Caribbean Group with St. Thomas on regular itineraries include Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and several others. Similarly, Carnival Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages also visit St. Croix.
It must be noted, however, that for both destinations, the significant majority of visiting ships are part of the Royal Caribbean Group. It is possible that additional fees will also be levied on other cruise lines in the future, depending on how much funding is necessary for the port improvement projects at both destinations.