Nov. 30, 2004 – "Tonight is going to be the night. Tonight is the test," said Horace C. Hord, Royal Caribbean Cruise's regional vice president, Tuesday at a press conference at Government House in Christiansted.
Cruise ship passengers are scheduled to disembark from a Royal Caribbean ship in Frederiksted and be greeted by a Cultural Fair organized by the Department of Tourism.
Pamela Richards, commissioner of Tourism, conducted the press conference. She urged residents to come to Frederiksted for this "wonderful opportunity to showcase our island of St. Croix."
Novelle Francis, territorial police chief, also took part in the press conference. He said that there will be about 25 police officers in Frederiksted to ensure the safety of the passengers. He said about the same number of officers were at the Tramp in Frederiksted last Saturday. He said that ensuring the passengers' safety would be a less difficult assignment than the officers had at Tramp. "It will be a more focused area."
Hord said the cruise line's No. 1 concern was safety for its passengers. He listed No. 2 and No. 3 concerns as the quality of the cruise ship passengers' experience and the product being offered them.
He quoted from a letter of an official visiting St. Croix for the cruise line. He wrote, "The pier is modern and fine…but the town looked grim and dead. No shops were open and only a few bars. And the bars were mostly of the type that even I would not venture in."
The report was much more positive when the writer went to Christiansted. He said that town was "civilized, pleasant and well-lighted." He wrote that he would be much "more enthusiastic" if the cruise ships were pulling into Christiansted instead of Frederiksted.
Hord said it was up to Tourism officials and all residents of St. Croix to turn the negatives around.
Ann E. Abramson, whose community activism had been at such a level that the pier to which the cruise ships will dock is named after her, was in the audience.
She said she understood Hord's concerns and they were her concerns. She said, "The facts are the facts. We have a lot of work to do."
She added, "We cannot afford to blow this opportunity."
Julia Renfro, who has been described as the liaison between the business community and the government on this project, described what would greet passengers. She said there would be two different bands playing traditional music and two mocko jumbie groups performing. She said there would also be 20 cultural vendors offering juices, pastries and crafts produced on the island.
Hord emphasized that this was not just about these cruise passengers or getting them back on longer vacations. "The signal is much more important. This will signal to other cruise lines that a major cruise line is interested in St. Croix."
He said Royal Caribbean has 29 cruise ships, 16 in the Caribbean and it was the second-largest cruise line in the world. Its ships hold from 2,000 to 3,500 passengers. The company has committed to making two to three stops a week until April and then through next October one or two stops a week.
Hord and Richards both acknowledged that Hovensa by giving the cruise lines "a deal they could not refuse" on fuel oil made the bunkering stops happen.
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