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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, July 15, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesSEASON TO SEE NEW CRUISE SHIPS, MORE CALLS

SEASON TO SEE NEW CRUISE SHIPS, MORE CALLS

The coming season will be the last in the Virgin Islands for the venerable SS Norway, but it will be the first for the Disney Magic and five other cruise ships, and a banner year overall for the passenger ports of both St. Thomas and St. Croix.
That was the news Tuesday afternoon from the West Indian Co. in a release previewing the 2000-2001 winter season and offering a peek at the 2001-2002 year.
Coming calls by more megaships and shifts in scheduling to have more evenly distributed "busy cruise ship days" appear to bode well for merchants and purveyors of goods and services to the day-trippers.
"The toughest challenge was to finalize an unprecedented agreement with the Disney corporation," WICO president Edward E. Thomas said in the release. "In the final analysis, WICO received a written commitment from the corporation for ship calls through the end of Summer 2002, in exchange for protecting the special Disney trademarks and logo."
The Disney Magic will make its first St. Thomas call two weeks from now, on Wednesday, Aug. 16, and will visit weekly thereafter. The other vessels scheduled to make their first visits to the territory in coming months are the Carnival Victory (Oct. 26), Explorer of the Seas (Nov. 1), Amsterdam (Nov. 2), Costa Atlantica (Nov. 29) and Millennium (Nov. 30).
Between Oct. 1 and April 30 of next year, 849 ship calls are projected for St. Thomas and St. John, up from 703 for the comparable period last season. With the 146 additional visits and some changes in scheduling, the WICO release stated, "Thursdays will now be as busy" as Wednesdays have been in recent years.
The number 146 is significant in another sense, too: That's how many calls are scheduled in the coming season at the Crown Bay marina — the most ever there.
St. Croix will see a significant increase in ship calls, too — with a projected total of 142, up 22 percent from the 116 last season. The first to call at Frederiksted's Ann E. Abramson Port Facility in the fall will be the Galaxy, on Oct. 22. The Carnival Victory will replace the line's Destiny, starting Oct. 25, "creating the atmosphere for Harbor Night celebrations once again," the WICO release stated.
The release also said that work is ahead of schedule on widening the WICO pier by 20 feet and "encapsulating" the 770 feet of the bulkhead, with completion expected by the end of September. "The encapsulation work specifically is geared for the new generation of vessels that use the podded system of propulsion," the release stated.
The largest such vessel that will be operating in the Eastern Caribbean in the coming season is the Explorer of the Seas, which is to make its inaugural call at the WICO dock on Nov. 1.
The Norway, a year-round fixture on Wednesdays or Thursdays since the 1980s in the St. Thomas outer harbor, and more recently in Cruz Bay as well, will make its last calls in the Virgin Islands next April 4. Then it will move to a Western Caribbean itinerary, still sailing out of Miami but making stops at Grand Cayman and Cozumel along with Great Stirrup Cay, the private island owned by Norwegian Caribbean Cruises.
Thomas and WICO operations manager Alfred Lloyd finalized the plans for the coming season in a series of meetings on the U.S. mainland recently with representatives of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association member lines operating ships that call at V.I. ports.
Thomas expressed satisfaction that Holland America Lines will operate nine of its 10 ships in the Caribbean, with seven calling regularly at St. Thomas and St. John. And, he said, Princess Cruises will return four of its "grand class" vessels to St. Thomas — the Ocean Princess, Sun Princess, Dawn Princess and Grand Princess — while all three of the Carnival Cruise Lines supermega-ships — Destiny, Victory and Triumph — will be regular Virgin Islands visitors.
The release noted that WICO and Port Authority officials met in Miami with members of the FCCA's Operations Committee to discuss a recent study of the feasibility of expanding the Crown Bay docking facilities. The findings of the study, funded jointly by WICO, the Port Authority and the FCCA, were inconclusive, it said. The Port Authority board voted recently to commission another study, at its own expense, on the prospects for accommodating even larger ships.
As far as what's to come in the following year, "A cursory glance into the fall of 2001 reveals that there will be at least four new ships again, thus making the issue of creative scheduling a major topic for discussion and planning with the member lines of the FCCA at the upcoming conference in Panama Oct. 3-7," the WICO statement said.

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