Dec. 11, 2002 – The Tourism Department remains tight-lipped about an announcement from Celebrity Cruises that the only cruise ship calling regularly on St. Croix this winter, the Constellation, will cut its visits short by a month at the end of the season, reducing its total calls from to 17 from 21.
John Demo, spokesman for St. Croix Alive, a coalition of business owners attempting to help boost tourism on St. Croix, said no explanations of the ship's early withdrawal have been offered.
"It's sad news, but nobody in authoritative positions can give us any answers," Demo said. "Nobody from Tourism is giving us any more answers than that they decided to cut it short."
Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards did not return repeated telephone calls on Monday and Tuesday. But Demo, the owner of the Caribbean Bracelet Company, said Tourism officials have said they don't have any answers about the itinerary change.
"I just don't have a clue; I'm totally at a loss," Demo said.
Celebrity Cruises is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Michael Ronan, associate vice president for destination development for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, said on Monday that he would not comment on the issue before conferring with Richards. Ronan said he was "in communication with the commissioner about some information," but he would not elaborate.
Port Authority spokeswoman Shirley Smith said the company did not give a reason for canceling its calls the last three weeks of March and the first week of April. But, she said, "This happens all the time. They plan their itineraries far in advance, and a company could shorten the itinerary for a variety of reasons."
Smith said that, as far as she knows, Celebrity is happy with St. Croix and the experiences of its passengers on the island. She said the Constellation will be berthed at Frederiksted every Sunday until March 9.
Beginning last spring, three cruise lines dropped St. Croix from their itineraries, variously citing crime against passengers and crew and the island's low marketability. After meetings between Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association officials and V.I. government and business representatives in June, Celebrity agreed to keep to its plans for the Constellation, a new cruise ship, to call at St. Croix this season on a "trial basis."
At that meeting, Tourism officials pledged to come up with a comprehensive marketing plan to "grow demand" for St. Croix as a destination. And at a press conference which followed, Ronan said the coming season represented an opportunity for St. Croix to impress Constellation passengers so that they would tell others about their favorable travel experience.
A rift developed between the government and the private sector as the due date for the marketing plan approached, with some business owners saying they felt that Tourism's plan did not meet their needs or expectations. St. Croix Alive came up with its own marketing plan and submitted it to Ronan a few days after Tourism submitted its own.
Demo said the group has gotten no response from Celebrity or Royal Caribbean about the private-sector proposal. (For background on the two plans, see "Tourism has a marketing plan; business, another".)
Sen. Emmett Hansen II, who became involved in the issue last summer and held several town meetings to discuss it, said he believes the shortened schedule is indicative of dissatisfaction with St. Croix's efforts to market the island.
"We had a chance to do something great," Hansen said, "but we chose to be mediocre, and we're going to pay the price for it."

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