See Sept 26 UPDATE to this story
An editorial in the Virgin Island Daily News this week expressed concern that Princess Cruise Lines has canceled 10 scheduled calls on St. Thomas by Sea Princess for the current winter season, which begins Nov. 14th.
While officials for the Virgin Island Port Authority's Crown Bay Center don't seem terribly concerned, the newspaper's editors feel they should be. Sea Princess carries up to 1,950 passengers and 900 crew members, which translates into a winter season loss of as many as 28,500 customers for St. Thomas businesses, including retailers in the beleaguered Crown Bay Center. They also point out ominously that Sea Princess is owned by Carnival Corporation, which owns many of the other cruise ships calling on St. Thomas.
Sea Princess sails 14-night cruises that embark passengers in Barbados and Jamaica and, as a result, carries a large number of European and Canadian passengers. The newspaper states that Princess officials claim the cancellations are due to the lengthy amount of time (up to three hours) for U.S. Customs to clear non-US passengers when arriving at the Crown Bay dock. However, an unnamed US Customs official suggests that agents do their best to expedite passenger processing and other reasons might be cause for the cancellations. We note that Princess Cruises' printed brochures covering May '07 through May '08 show several ports of call changes other than the St. Thomas cancellations. Keeping in mind that cruise lines reserve the right to change itineraries for any reason, there may be truly be "other reasons" behind Princess Cruises' change of heart regarding St. Thomas.
Cruise Diva can't help but agree with the Virgin Island Daily News editor that the bottom line for St. Thomas is, "Without cruise passengers, everyone suffers." Think back... when was the last time you sailed on a cruise ship that called at St. Croix? Those folks are still suffering as they watch cruise ships bypass their lovely island for "safer" destinations.
Today's hint for cruisers... To avoid disappointment, it pays to check the cruise line's website for the most up-to-the-minute itineraries before booking and even after you've booked your sailing.