CARNIVAL THREATENS TO PULL OUT OF ST. CROIX

Jan. 6, 2002 — Carnival Cruise Lines, the king of St. Croix’s meager share of port calls, fired a shot across the V.I. government’s bow last week: Ensure the safety of passengers and crew, or face the possibility of a pull-out.
In a letter sent to Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards on Dec. 27, Gordon Buck, Carnival director of port operations, cited four incidents since November in which passengers and crew members on board the line’s two ships that call at St. Croix "have been exposed to muggings and robberies."
"Please understand that Carnival is very concerned about safety and security of our guests and crew while visiting any of our destinations," Buck wrote. "Reports have been filed with the authorities; however, incidents continue to occur."
He continued, "Due to this persistent problem, our Marketing Department has already begun investigating alternative ports to substitute for St. Croix, and I’m sure this is not something which Tourism wants to see for the future."
Richards did not respond to a call to her office last week for comment. Carnival’s Victory and Triumph call at St. Croix on alternating Wednesdays and make up a third of the ships that dock in Frederiksted each week. In contrast, St. Thomas can see as many as six ships in a single day.
The two Carnival vessels, which can carry up to 3,500 passengers and 1,500 crew each, represent critical income for many of St. Croix's cruise-dependent businesses. Harbor Night, a street fair featuring local vendors and musicians, is held each Wednesday until midnight when the Victory is in port.
Police Chief Novelle Francis said he was aware of Carnival’s safety concerns. He said the incidents included items stolen from beaches while visitors were swimming and muggings in other areas. He said one incident, involving a crew member, occurred when the person went "looking for women" on the back streets of Frederiksted.
Francis noted that passengers are told to stay on the waterfront during Harbor Night events and not to venture away from the public activities.
"We have reviewed most of the cases, and this is stuff that could have been avoided," Francis said. "Yes, you’re in paradise; nonetheless, you can’t let your guard down."
Contacted at his office late last week in Miami, Buck said recent incidents included a robbery at knifepoint.
Since he sent the letter, Buck said, he has met with Richards and other government officials to address the company's concerns. He stopped short of saying Carnival is pulling out. "It’s a little premature to say what we are going to do," he said.
Francis, meanwhile, said he was working to position more police officers in the Frederiksted and Cane Bay areas when cruise ships are in port. Such an effort is difficult, however, because of the personnel shortage the department is facing, he said.
"What we intend to do is put additional manpower on the coast where we know tourists go," Francis said. "The problem is, we’re so short, when you pull from one place, you are pulling from another."

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