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A New Pier for the New Normal


Dear Source:
My first cruise was on the Carla C in 1972 with my now adult daughter, Linda. I have taken countless cruises since then and my two grandsons have been on dozens with us as a family. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to travel. I worked for Eastern Airlines for more than thirty years and between that experience and cruising, I have seen almost all 50 states and dozens of countries. In my travels, especially throughout the Caribbean, I have seen the way that many islands have invested in their infrastructure to develop harbors and piers along their shorelines. For many years, St. Thomas had the most advanced port in the Eastern Caribbean. Now, when I cruise, many other islands have ports which rival what we have here on St. Thomas. From this perspective, I would like to share my own observations on what we need to do in the Virgin Islands to maintain what we have and advance our cruise industry.
St. Thomas is a cruise port that catches the eye of visitors from the moment they arrive. I have made many friends with frequent cruisers like myself, and most of them want to come back to the Virgin Islands again and again. When I worked for Eastern Airlines, and since then, I knew of many people who came here on a cruise and returned by air for longer stays. Many of these people took time to visit St. Croix and St. John when they came back for an extended vacation. Because I travel to so many islands, I see, firsthand, the development happening in different places. Many lines now have their own private islands, and each time I cruise I notice new tours, exciting port attractions and new or expanded piers. I was excited to read about the new pier that WICO is planning on building. I was wondering when we were going to take notice of St. Maarten, St. Kitts and St. Lucia; even little Tortola is getting in on the mega cruise ship action.
Now, I am not saying that we have to follow fashion and just react to what other destinations are doing. But, I understand the travel and cruise industry; and I know a few things for sure – ships are getting larger, more people want to cruise, cruisers love the Caribbean, and passengers hate to tender ashore on smaller boats because the ship is anchored at sea. I know and believe that we should diversify our economy, but I also know that we would be shooting ourselves in the foot if we do not invest in the industry that is our bread and butter. To me, that is the bottom line.
I am a Virgin Islander, so I have a lot of respect for our harbor. I have the traveled the world, and I know without a doubt that we live in a beautiful place. However, I also know that my daughter and my grandsons, my nieces and nephews as well as my other family and friends, need to make a living. A couple of weeks ago there were six ships in port. The excitement made me think of the days when St. Thomas was bustling. Taxi drivers were smiling, store clerks and owners were happy… downtown was alive. One of the ships stayed late and I smiled when I sat with friends on the Waterfront at Percy’s Bus Stop and watched it sail out with lights ablaze.
I, for one, want to continue to see the ships come in and out of our harbor. This is how many of us maintain our livelihoods. This is how we hope to build our future. I also want us to continue to find more ways to bring the excitement back to St. Thomas so that visitors have more options for activities when they arrive. Remember, if we are not moving forward, then we are moving backwards.
Marylyn Stapleton, St. Thomas


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