World’s Largest Cruise Ship Makes Inaugural Call on USVI
By Aldeth Lewin
The Virgin Islands Daily News
Published December 18th, 2010-ST THOMAS, USVI (MCT) — Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas made its inaugural call on St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands on Wednesday, and the territory welcomed the largest cruise ship on the ocean with open arms.
The ship is almost identical to its sister ship, Oasis of the Seas, and will berth at Crown Bay every other week, alternating with the Oasis.
At a plaque ceremony on board the ship on Wednesday, Captain Hernan Zini told the dignitaries, “Thank you once again for the continuous focus you have on making the destination better and better.”
Michael Ronan, vice president of government relations for Royal Caribbean, said he was excited to once again be on hand to welcome a brand new ship to the Virgin Islands.
“The passengers want to take the greatest ship in the world to the greatest destination in the world,” Ronan said.
The Allure and the Oasis are expected to bring $1.5 million in revenues to the territory during each port call — $78 million a year — Ronan said. According to a Florida Caribbean Cruise Association report, the average cruise passenger spends $193 while in the US Virgin Islands and crew members spend about $150. The ship also brings revenues to the territory through the taxes and fees Royal Caribbean pays to dock and berth the ship.
With the Allure calling regularly on St Thomas, Royal Caribbean will bring an additional 100,000 passengers to the island in the coming year, and about 80,000 more the following season, Ronan said.
He said that by 2012, Royal Caribbean should be bringing about 875,000 passengers to the territory on an annual basis.
Port Authority Harbor Pilot John Amaro brought the mammoth boat into the Monsanto Marine Terminal at Crown Bay on Wednesday morning.
“It’s as thrilling as it ever is,” he said.
Because the boat is nearly identical to the Oasis of the Seas, and the harbor pilots have had a year of experience guiding that ship into port, it was a smooth operation, said Amaro.
Fortunately, the ship was docked just ahead of a squall that kicked up winds and dumped rain in the area, he said.
The interiors are almost the same, but Allure has the first “Starbucks at Sea” coffee bar and a Mexican restaurant replaces the seafood eatery in the Boardwalk area. Instead of the Broadway musical Hairspray as a running show, the Allure has Chicago: The Musical.
Allure also has the first 3-D movie theater, which soon will be adopted on other Royal Caribbean ships.
Just like the Oasis, Allure’s “neighborhoods,” or sections of the ship, are divided into seven themed areas: Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.
The ship has 16 decks, encompasses 225,282 gross registered tons, carries 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and features 2,700 staterooms.
The ship alternates between western Caribbean and eastern Caribbean seven-night itineraries, starting from its home port in Florida. Its three Eastern Caribbean ports of call are St Thomas; Nassau, Bahamas; and St Martin.
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said the arrival of the ship for the coming season will boost revenues for the territory, both immediately and in the future.
About 20 percent of the overnight guests who come to the Virgin Islands first came here on a cruise ship, she said.
“So this is our opportunity to show off the Virgin Islands,” Nicholson-Doty said.
In addition to volunteers with big “Ask Me” buttons pinned to their shirts and women in traditional dress handing out Cruzan Rum samples, Tourism had set up live entertainment at the Crown Bay dock, Market Square, Emancipation Garden and Havensight. Mocko jumbies, steel pan and various musical acts brought a little V.I. culture to the crew and passengers of all seven ships that visited St Thomas on Wednesday.
When the Oasis of the Seas first called on St Thomas a year ago, the territory’s Tourism, Police, Port Authority and Public Works officials were concerned about controlling traffic flow through the area and ensuring that cruise passengers were efficiently taken from the dock to their tours and excursions, that all passengers were safe and that the boat could physically dock at the port. After a year of working out kinks, the Allure’s arrival Wednesday was a piece of cake.
“We already had the experience and the systems were in place,” Nicholson-Doty said. “I didn’t lose as much sleep with this one.”
Jeremy Pickford, manager of the Crown Bay Diamonds International store, said the day was steady and typical of a day when the Oasis is in port. With one of the huge ships calling at Crown Bay each week instead of every other week, sales are bound to improve, he said.
“That makes this year better, no matter what,” Pickford said.
Copyright (c) 2010, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas
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