By the Caribbean Journal staff
St Thomas’ cruise industry will reactivate in a big way on Nov. 10, when Royal Caribbean will be the first cruise line to bring passengers to the island since Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
St Thomas is the third-most-visited cruise destination in the Caribbean, after Nassau and Cozumel.
The move comes after a visit by Royal Caribbean executives to see the island’s port facilities and cruise infrastructure last week.
“Most downtown shops, restaurants and bars and tour operators [are] fully operational, and guests will be able to experience a diverse and extensive array of dining, shopping and activities,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement.
Royal Caribbean, which operated two major mercy missions to the US Virgin Islands to help with evacuations and deliver relief supplies, has been providing significant resources to help restore the island’s famous Magens Bay beach, according to tourism officials.
“We are very excited to get back home to our friends in St Thomas,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “The Caribbean is our family, having cruised there for nearly 50 years, and the long-standing relationships created in all this time are unwavering. We are committed to doing everything we can to help, and proud to support the restoration of the iconic Magens Bay.”
“Welcoming cruise visitors back to the U.S. Virgin Islands is key to our economic recovery,” Commissioner Nicholson-Doty underscored, disclosing that cruise guests represent a significant share of overall visitors, supporting jobs both within and outside the tourism sector. The Commissioner said preparations for Royal Caribbean’s arrival were ongoing and additional meetings with the business community were being planned.
Royal Caribbean said it was also committed to returning to San Juan and St Maarten by the end of November.
By Dec. 1, scheduled cruises to the three ports will operate as planned, including visits from Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, carrying nearly 6,000 visitors every week.
“As we move forward from September’s historic storms, we are laser-focused on improving and enhancing the overall tourism product, and creating an environment that stimulates economic growth and employment for our residents,” said U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp.