Nov. 16, 2004 After the absence of cruise ships at the Frederiksted dock for more than a year, Crucians are getting ready to welcome passengers into St. Croix at night. Pleasure ships will be bunkering at the Ann Abramson pier to refuel before setting sail to other Caribbean ports, and passengers will come ashore to get a taste of culture and hospitality, Crucian style.
The Frederiksted Economic Development Association met Monday evening with Tourism Commissioner Pamela C. Richards to get an update on plans that have been put in place for the visitors. Business owners were told about security issues, town beautification and a marketing strategy that features a four-block-long Crucian Cultural Bazaar on King Street in Frederiksted.
Richards said the Royal Caribbean Cruise lines were offered bunkering at WICO and Crown Bay by Tourism but requested to bunker instead in Frederiksted, "for economic reasons." After visiting St. Thomas during the day all of the RCC ships will travel to St. Croix for refueling. Richards said the added cost of shipping fuel to St. Thomas and the lower cost of fuel in St. Croix were some of the factors considered in the decision. The plan calls for ships to start bunkering on Wednesday but passengers will not be allowed off the ships until Nov. 23, 24 and 29.
The ships will be docked in Frederiksted from 6 or 8 p.m. until around midnight. Richards said the bunkering was scheduled to end in May but the program was extended until October 2005. The ships carry 2,000 to 3,500 passengers, depending on the size of the ship. (For an earlier Source story on bunkering, see "Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships To Bunker On St. Croix").
"These are a higher class of cruise ship passengers. They want to take advantage of the duty-free shopping," Richards said. "It's a win-win situation."
Richards cited three safety issues that need to be addressed during the port calls: bunkering, waterfront construction and passenger safety.
Richards said Port Authority and the Coast Guard were consulted as to situations that may arise from the transfer of fuel. "You remember the Exxon Valdez," Richards said, referring to the the super tanker that spilled 11 million gallons in fuel on the Alaska coastline when it ran aground in 1989. Another security issue is the ongoing construction of the Frederiksted waterfront. This will be addressed by transporting passengers through the construction area by trolley. Richards also said police will be providing additional security during the port visits.
Public Finance Authority director Kenneth Mapp said safety signs, renderings of the completed project and a Web site address to access information will be placed around the construction area.
The Christiansted Restaurant and Retail Association, which organizes "Jump Up," will coordinate the Cultural Bazaar, according to Richards. King Street will be blocked off to vehicular traffic from the fort to Hill Street. Vendors who wish to participate can contact the Tourism office. "We are setting up an aggressive program," Richards said. "The passengers are interested in cultural items." Once the waterfront project is completed, the bazaar will be moved to Stand Street.
The Crucian Christmas Festival and Sunset Jazz will be marketed as an attraction for passengers to spend more time on shore. Richards said "the best news" was that Festival would be held in Frederiksted.
Richards said the cruise lines said the town was not as clean as they want it to be.
"I know you don't like me to say this," she quipped.
Richards called on residents to identify to the proper authorities where improvements need to be made. She suggested that the Fire Department assist in hosing down dirty buildings and Public Works pick up accumulated trash in vacant lots and cut overgrown brush. Tourism is also working with the Water and Power Authority to identify areas that need more lighting and to increase the illumination in existing lights. Richards also said air-conditioned executive-style Port O' Potties will be placed around the town so passengers do not have to return to the ship to use restrooms.
All activities offered to passengers will be approved through the Tourism department. Richards said because the passengers have only a few hours on shore RCC preferred to have passengers be entertained in the Frederiksted area.
Richards revealed more good news for Frederiksted another ship will be making daytime calls to St. Croix beginning January 2005. Richards said the MSC Opera, with a capacity of 2,500 plus crew, will dock from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Frederiksted on Jan. 19, Feb. 2 and 16, and March 2, 16 and 30.
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