The Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) and Royal Caribbean Group have partnered to revitalize the U.S. Virgin Islands’ cruise industry with a commitment from Royal Caribbean Group to develop infrastructure and attractions.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations was signed by VIPA Executive Director Carlton Dowe and Royal Caribbean Group’s Vice President of Destination Development Joshua Carroll during a cruise event in Miami. The memorandum is a recommitment from Royal Caribbean Group to extend its existing 10-year, pier-use agreement for preferential berthing at VIPA’s cruise facilities in Crown Bay, St. Thomas and Frederiksted, St. Croix.
The existing agreement was executed in June 2016, and by signing the memorandum, VIPA and Royal Caribbean Group agree to collaborate on an extension of that agreement for an additional number of years.
Dowe also announced that in addition to guaranteed minimum revenues to VIPA and increased cruise visits to both St. Thomas and St. Croix, Royal Caribbean Group has expressed an interest in developing enhancements to the cruise facility in Crown Bay and making “landside improvements” in the Crown Bay District and St. Croix to enhance the island’s tourism products.
Dowe stated that this development signals “an important boost for the territory’s economy and increased opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs in the tourism sector in the USVI.”
“Royal Caribbean is the leading cruise company in the industry, and it has committed to a major infusion of capital as well as guaranteed cruise visits to our islands. In this currently strained economic climate, this substantial commitment indicates Royal Caribbean Group’s dedication to the people of this territory and our economy,” he said.
Dowe added that VIPA is “pleased” to continue its working relationship with Royal Caribbean Group.
“This MOU extends what has been an exceedingly amicable, reliable, and beneficial arrangement for both parties. Our unified goal is to ensure that the U.S. Virgin Islands is a premier destination in the Caribbean,” he noted.
VIPA will align with Royal Caribbean Group to expand the Austin “Babe” Monsanto Marine Facility in Crown Bay to allow the berthing that includes Icon- and Quantum-class ships and the development of a third berth. The vision for the Crown Bay District will complement the port authority’s plans to revitalize the district to appeal to residents and cruise visitors.
Royal Caribbean Group has also committed to partner with VIPA and the Government of the USVI to develop and enhance the overall visitor experience in St. Croix.
“The U.S. Virgin Islands is one of our best destination partners and the opportunity to continue innovating on ways to refine the guest experience helps guide our decision to expand our already strong relationship with the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Carroll. “We thank Governor Albert Bryan Jr., the VIPA Board of Governors, Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte and Executive Director Carlton Dowe and his team for collaborating on this exciting opportunity to develop destination experiences that benefit tourists and citizens of the USVI.”
The U.S. Virgin Islands recently started receiving cruise visits to its islands following the halt of cruising in March 2020. Most of the territory’s cruise visits have been Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises vessels.
The Celebrity Edge was the first ship to call on St. Thomas on July 20, and in St. Croix, the Celebrity Equinox was the first ship to berth since the pandemic on Aug. 8.
According to a press release, VIPA has had 22,991 cruise visitors to the territory since July 2021, making it one of the most visited cruise destinations in the world.