Sept. 19, 2001 – Cruise industry officials were hoping Wednesday to persuade the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to rescind its recent order barring cruise ship crew members who are not U.S. citizens from leaving the vessels while they are in port in the Virgin Islands.
The ban's effects have been felt all this week — a blind-siding economic blow to the Havensight Mall and nearby merchants, as business dropped off dramatically at shops, restaurants, telephone centers and cybercafes.
Edward Thomas, president of the West Indian Co., and Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines, were working on the problem, Calvin Wheatley, WICO spokesman, said Wednesday.
It appeared evident that the ban on disembarkation by non-U.S. nationals was a part of the heightened security measures that have been instituted nationwide in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland. Efforts by the Source to obtain clarification of the INS order were unsuccessful. Repeated telephone calls Tuesday and Wednesday to Ivan Ortiz, the INS public information officer in San Juan, went unreturned. Calls to the INS office on St. Thomas were referred to Ortiz in San Juan.
Cruise ships typically carry a crew-to-passenger ratio of about 1:3, according to Wheatley.
Thus, an average-size cruise ship such as the Carnival Destiny, with a 2,766-passenger capacity, would have about 900 crew members aboard. Megaships such as the Carnival Triumph can carry some 3,000 passengers with 1,000 crew. Most crew members are foreign nationals — mainly from Central and South America, Europe and Southeast Asia.
Wheatley said WICO estimates that crew members spend an average of about $73 per person ashore each time their ship is in port at St. Thomas. That would mean about $170,000 on Tuesday alone, with the crew of the megaship Explorer of the Seas prevented from disembarking.
The Delly Deck restaurant, long a fixture in the Havensight Mall, has felt the loss. "We've really taken a hit," manager Anna Saplis said. "Monday and Tuesday were bad."
At Modern Music, across the street from the mall entrance, general manager Jim Burke said business has been down about 80 percent in the last three days. The store has done a thriving business in renting videos to the crews, which they take one week and return the next, he said.
"Tuesday we had Explorer of the Seas, one of the big ones with about 1,000 crew," Burke said. "We had about 20 American crew in, and they told us the foreign crews were allowed off in Nassau in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico." Puerto Rico is a U.S. Commonwealth, flying the U.S. flag.
The S&B Liquor store in Frederiksted also felt the impact of the ban on Wednesday, when the megaship Carnival Triumph was in port. "We usually sell lots of phone cards and sodas and snacks," manager Lionel Smith said, "but today we didn't."
On Wednesday morning, Attorney General Iver Stridiron said became aware of the problem when "I noticed Sunday that Havensight looked deserted." He said he was meeting with the governor later in the morning and would bring the matter to his attention.
"I think we will have to deal with the federal authorities," he said. "I'll tell the governor that I'll contact the Justice Department and see if I can help."
Thinking for a moment, Stridiron added, "You know, most of those guys have been on the ships for years."


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