April 6, 2005 – Cindy Anderson and Larry Johnson took a break from the noonday sun Wednesday by enjoying an icy drink in Havensight. They were just two of the 19,082 passengers visiting St. Thomas by cruise ship. The final number came from the office of Alfred Lloyd, director of dock operations for the West Indian Company Ltd. It was declared a record-breaking day. Tuesday's passenger list reached 16,349, according to Lloyd's office.
"I was here last November and there were one or two less ships, but it still seems like that was a lot of people," Anderson said.
Retailers were geared up to accommodate the large influx of guests, but so far there's no word on whether sales were higher than normal.
"I have to say stores were busy," said Joe Aubain, executive director of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce. He said whether or not stores cash in depends on a lot more than just the number of guests. Stores take into account which ships are visiting, as well as what islands they've been to before they reach St. Thomas.
"If they've just been to St. Maarten, they're not going to spend as much here," Aubain said.
Anderson, who did a lot of shopping the last time she was on the island, opted not to go into town Wednesday. Instead she took a safari tour that included stops at Mountaintop and Coral World. "With this many ships it's a little crowded and there's a lot of traffic."
Traffic, according to Aubain, will be an issue the island needs to deal with if guests continue to come in large numbers. He points to sea transportation from the cruise ship docks to the Waterfront as an option.
"There are lots of things the island needs to do to sustain these types of numbers. Parking downtown for the people who need to take care of the visitors becomes a problem," Aubain said.
Steve Bornn, director of marketing for V.I. Department of Tourism, agrees that high-visitor days strain the infrastructure.
"We never want to be in the position of not welcoming visitors — the more the better," Bornn said. "In an ideal situation, if we were in a position to control these things, it would be ideal to spread them out."
Bornn said he would like to see arrivals and departures of ships staggered throughout the day. "Even stay overnight like they did in the old days."
Anderson said that spacing arrival times would have made her visit a little more pleasant. "I think that would be a lot better, a lot less crowded," she said.
But the crowds won't keep either her or Johnson from visiting again. "I like it," said Johnson. "On the streets it's a little crowded, but I'd come back."
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