Drop in Virgin Islands cruise numbers accelerates

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The number of cruise ship passengers and cruise ship calls to the Virgin Islands continued to slide in the second quarter of 2017, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Economic Research.

The news comes as a government task force recently met with representatives of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association in a town hall meeting at the Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort.

According to numbers posted on the Bureau of Economic Research website, cruise ship calls to the territory in April, May and June dropped 21.7 percent when compared with 2016 — down from 106 to 83.

Cruise passenger arrivals for the same quarter were down 19.1 percent across the territory — down from 389,681 to 315,270.


While air visitor arrivals had increased in April by 13.2 percent as compared with the previous year, May saw a territory decrease in arrivals, down 1.5 percent.

St. Croix again saw the most ominous impact from having fewer cruise ships arrive filled with vacationers looking to spend money and enjoy the island.

In 2016, St. Croix had seen five cruise ships in April, one in May and none in June.

This year, St. Croix merchants watched as only three ships docked in the entire three-month period: three in April and none in the other two months.

That means the island saw cruise passenger numbers drop from 18,109 in 2016 to 7,013 in 2017, for a drop of 61 percent.

St. Croix had seen a 71.1 percent decrease in cruise passenger arrivals in the first quarter of the year, down from 61,315 to 17,729.

For the first half of the year, St. Croix saw a 68.8 percent decrease in cruise passenger arrivals, down from 79,424 in 2016 to 24,724 in the first six months of 2017.

The Port Authority on Wednesday released the cruise ship schedule for St. Croix for the period November 2017-May 2018.

Four ships are scheduled to dock at the Ann Abramson Pier in Frederiksted in November; four in December; five in January; two in February; two in March; five in April and one in May.

In the more visited St. Thomas-St. John District, cruise ship calls in the second quarter fell from 103 in 2016 to 80 in 2017.

The number of cruise ship passengers arriving in the second quarter of 2017 fell 19.2 percent when compared with 2016, down from 381,697 to 308,257.

St. Thomas-St. John already had seen a 10.7 percent drop in cruise passenger arrivals in the first quarter of 2017 when compared with the year before.

For the first half of 2017, St. Thomas-St. John saw cruise passenger arrivals decline from 986,269 to 848,411.

The overall numbers on cruise passenger arrivals does not note how many passengers bother to disembark once the boat docks.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp previously has said there is data to suggest that 60 percent of the cruisers who have been here two or more times “do not come off of the ship because their expectation is, there’s not much new to see, there’s not much new to buy, the transportation system is not much improved, the delay in traffic is not much changed, and the overall experience is not going to be any much more different than my last two or more visits to this port.”

So, they think, “I’ll spend the day on the ship, or just walk around where the ship is and get right back on board,” Mapp said.

When that happens, the territory loses millions in purchases, according to the governor.

No one with the Tourism Department responded when asked for comment about the continued loss of cruise customers.

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