To bolster growth and increase tourism numbers to the United States Virgin Islands, Royal Caribbean Group and the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) have entered a partnership that will help build up the island’s cruise tourism industry.
The islands have been heavily hit by the pause in operations and have seen only a few cruise ships arrive since the restart of operations by the major cruise lines.
The announcement for developing infrastructure and building more attractions for passengers came during the Seatrade Cruise Global event in Miami, Florida. At the same time, Royal Caribbean renewed its 10-year pier-use agreement for preferential berthing at VIPA’s cruise facilities in Crown Bay, St. Thomas, and Frederiksted, St. Croix.
Royal Caribbean Group has been on a path to developing port areas and increasing the likeability of the ports significantly in recent years. Examples include Nassau in the Bahamas and only recently building a new innovative cruise terminal for Ravenna in Italy, which will be completed in 2024.
VIPA Executive Director Carlton Dowe announced that the cruise line had committed to increasing the number of visits to St. Thomas and St. Croix. Also, it had expressed interest in developing the cruise facility and making landside improvements in Crown Bay and St. Croix.
These changes would include expanding the Austin “Babe” Monsanto Marine Facility in Crown Bay to allow the berthing of Icon- and Quantum-class ships, the development of a third berth, and increasing and revitalizing the overall visitor experience in St. Thomas.
The improvements and investments from the world’s second-largest cruise operator will be a welcome initiative to USVI businesses in the tourism industry.
“Royal Caribbean is the leading cruise company in the industry, and it has committed to a major infusion of capital as well as guaranteed cruise visits to our islands. In this currently strained economic climate, this substantial commitment indicates Royal Caribbean Group’s dedication to the people of this territory and our economy,” said VIPA Executive Director Carlton Dowe, “This MOU extends what has been an exceedingly amicable, reliable, and beneficial arrangement for both parties. Our unified goal is to ensure that the U.S. Virgin Islands is a premier destination in the Caribbean,”
Royal Caribbean’s presence in the Virgin Islands has been a long and prosperous one for the cruise company and the islands. The first cruise ship to visit the islands was Celebrity Edge on July 20 when she arrived in St. Thomas.
In St. Croix, Celebrity Equinox was the first ship to berth since the pandemic on August 8. The continued support from Royal Caribbean will benefit locals, local businesses, and tourists visiting the islands.
Royal Caribbean Group’s Vice President of Destination Development Joshua Carroll said this: “The U.S. Virgin Islands is one of our best destination partners and the opportunity to continue innovating on ways to refine the guest experience helps guide our decision to expand our already strong relationship with the U.S. Virgin Islands. We thank Governor Albert Bryan Jr, The VIPA Board of Governors, Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte and Executive Director Carlton Dowe and his team for collaborating on this exciting opportunity to develop destination experiences that benefit tourists and citizens of the USVI.”
During 2017/2018, an estimated 943,855 cruise passengers visited the USVI. These visitors spent $156.1 million on local businesses, shops, bars, restaurants, and tours. In contrast, since the cruise industry started sailing again, the islands welcomed only 22,991 cruise ship passengers. The increased visits from Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Silversea ships will be a welcome initiative.