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Cruise Lines Hint at Industry Changes at Trade Show

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March 14, 2008 — Virgin Islands tourism officials got feedback from thousands of cruise line executives, ports and other cruise tourism stakeholders gathered in Miami this week, and also advertised the territory's cruise product.
Cruise executives told Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty and interim Ports Authority Director Kenn Hobson of a changing industry where new ports are increasingly welcome — good news for St. Croix — and established ports should put on the brakes a little and avoid overcrowding. Specifically mentioned was St. Thomas, Hobson said.
"Each port should just want enough and not overdo themselves," Hobson said. "It can cause traffic problems. It can cause environmental problems." And too much traffic at one port can also cause people to become too stressed, something vacationers don't want to see.
Another hot topic at the convention was how cruise lines, local governments and ports can better partner together to renovate unused properties and enhance the port to everyone's advantage, Hobson said.
"What they were saying was, they shouldn't be afraid of chasing away the locals because it gives them a chance to be a part of the whole community," he said. "What they're saying is they don't want to take anything away from the community. They want to share," he said.
Commissioner Doty said recent polls of cruise passengers on the streets of Charlotte Amalie, and former visitors online, revealed that cruise passengers want something different, unexpected and new.
"They are looking for new and different things to do," she said. "And that was just reinforced in this meeting" with the cruise executives.
"In many ways, our product needs a refresh," Doty said, so people don't say they've 'been there, done that' when thinking of the U.S.V.I.
This is especially true given the recent emergence of alternative cruising waters in the Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea and Asia, she said.
The Caribbean will lose about 5 percent of the cruise ships next year. They will largely go to Mediterranean cruising. Total passenger arrivals will stay roughly the same, however, because new cruise ships in the Caribbean are so much larger than the old ones. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's new Genesis-class ship, due in December, will carry more than 5,000 passengers.
"While competition is rising with Europe and Asia, the Caribbean is still a strong product for the Cruise Industry," Doty said.
The Virgin Islands doubled its presence at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention in Miami this year, dedicating a second booth to promote St. Croix specifically.
Traditionally, the territory courts the thousands of people at the three-day convention with just one booth, part of the Caribbean Village section that features representatives from 15 other islands.
"St. Croix needed the added push," she said, adding that she was "ecstatic" to learn the Disney Magic would soon be calling in St. Croix.
"We have been working diligently with all of the other major cruise lines," Doty said. "St. Thomas is a marquee destination, so when you say St. Thomas, they think of the V.I. So, we wanted to pull out St. Croix and say: This is St. Thomas, and this is St. Croix."
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