World's largest cruise ships could soon be able to dock at St. Thomas and St. Croix
More of the largest Royal Caribbean International ships could soon call on the U.S. Virgin Islands. Royal Caribbean Group on Wednesday entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Caribbean island chain, allowing the two entities to begin planning pier expansion in St. Thomas and, eventually, St. Croix.
The two parties signed the MOU at a press conference during Seatrade Cruise Global, the cruise industry's annual conference, which took place in Miami this week.
For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter.
"If you think of how many tourists we've brought to the Virgin Islands over 50 years, it's in the tens of millions of tourists and, of course, many, many crew members, and it's always been one of the most popular and iconic destinations Royal Caribbean visits," said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. I am delighted today that we're entering into this MOU."
"The USVI has been there for us, and it's a mutual partnership...." said Joshua Carroll, Royal Caribbean Group's vice president of destination development. "We're the largest guest deliverer to St. Croix. We're here because ... we want to help grow the product in St. Croix and make it an even greater destination and ... in St. Thomas, where we're also the largest customer. This, again, is an opportunity for a win-win and mutual growth for both of us."
Under the development plan, which is still preliminary, Jayne Halcomb, Royal Caribbean Group's director of destination development in the Caribbean and the Americas, said Royal Caribbean will partner with the USVI to increase the number of calls on the islands and to, over time, further increase capacity by adding new berths that will accommodate more of the cruise line's largest ships.
According to Halcomb, tentative plans include adding two new pier areas to the Crown Bay port facility in St. Thomas -- one that will have two berths large enough to welcome vessels that include the line's new Icon Class, which will hold about 5,000 passengers, and another with one berth that will offer enough space for the line's 4,200-passenger Quantum Class.
"This project is very exciting because as we grow, we are going to see Crown Bay grow, and we're going to see a total of three berths, two of them Icon [Class]-capable" Halcomb said. "We're going to be looking at the area surrounding it and developing that ... adding more attractions and enriching it even more than it is [enriched] today.... Additionally, at St. Croix, we're going to be focusing on some of the community projects that they have in pipeline.... We're working with the chamber of commerce on how we can add more guest attractions ... and ultimately bring more guest volume to St. Croix, as well."
During the conference, USVI officials said there will also be work done at St. Croix's Frederiksted port area, including dredging, which will allow Royal Caribbean's largest ships -- those in the 5,600-passenger Oasis Class -- to visit the island.
There is currently no official plan, which means details about the projects' size, cost and timeline haven't yet been decided. However, Halcomb said part of Royal Caribbean's overall commitment will involve coming up with ways to ensure that local businesses benefit from visiting cruise passengers.
"We were thrilled when Governor Bryan's cabinet reached out and asked us to co-sponsor and host a series of community business forums over the past 18 months. This was a platform that gave us the opportunity to reach out to existing, new and aspiring business owners in St. Croix and St. Thomas on how they're going to be able to connect with our cruise ship passengers in this new COVID world.... Ultimately, our goal is to help stimulate the tourism economy."