St. Croix rolls out red carpet for top cruise line executives


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ST. CROIX - A group of cruise industry executives is on St. Croix this week, experiencing what the island has to offer.

Officials hope the meeting of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Platinum Associate Member Advisory Council at The Buccaneer Hotel will lead to more cruise ship traffic to the island.

"The whole goal has been for them to experience St. Croix and how unique and distinct the offerings are," said V.I. Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty. "We had actively pursued hosting this conference on St. Croix."

Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association president Michele Paige said that the association, a trade organization with 15 member cruise lines, is here with preferred partners from a variety of destinations for the event.

About 200 people are on the island for the meeting, including about 40 top executives from the cruise lines, Nicholson-Doty said.

Local officials and cruise executives have had a number of discussions covering the kinds of attractions that are on St. Croix, as well as the kinds of visitor experiences that may help grow interest in more cruise ship calls to the island, officials said. Infrastructure plans and needs have also been a topic for discussion, Nicholson-Doty said.

"We recognize that they need to be a partner in how we build the overall visitor experience on St. Croix," Nicholson-Doty said. "They've come up with incredible ideas."

For instance, she said, some were "wowed" by the unique jewelry offerings on St. Croix and suggested the possibility of incorporating it into tours, so that cruise passengers could watch the jewelry being made or perhaps even make their own, Nicholson-Doty said.

"There's just so much opportunity for us to think outside the box and look at how we can enhance the offerings on St. Croix," she said.

The meeting started Wednesday and continues through Saturday.

A statement Government House released Thursday quotes Gov. John deJongh Jr. as saying that the meetings are "most productive because they highlight the attraction of St. Croix and how it enables cruise companies to remain competitive, which benefits their passengers, while at the same time coordinating schedules to ensure better efficiency in the services they provide to our territory and to the region."

The meeting includes senior executives in charge of shore excursions and port developments from Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Activities for the conference are aimed at showcasing "the history, culture and the unique culinary diversity" of St. Croix to the cruise delegates as the territory prepares for increasing numbers of cruise calls this summer, according to Government House.

Activities for the conference include tours of the island; a dinner at Fort Christiansvaern; a "block party" at the boardwalk in downtown Christiansted; and a tour of Port Authority properties. The schedule also includes a guided tour of Buck Island followed by swimming, snorkeling and a hike.

The visit culminates with a tour of the Ann Abramson Pier, Jazz in the Park and a farewell dinner at Fort Frederik.

Paige said Thursday that the conference was going well.

"Phenomenal. I'm very, very proud of St. Croix and what they've put together," Paige said. "Commissioner Nicholson-Doty and Gov. deJongh have really done a marvelous job of putting together all the wonderful attributes of St. Croix."

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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