Consider this an early Christmas gift from Royal Caribbean: the cruise line is throwing in an extra port of call -- the United States Virgin Islands' St. Croix -- for those ships sailing Eastern Caribbean itineraries this winter.
It's not an altogether altruistic move, however. The cruise line, taking advantage of lower fuel costs on St. Croix, will head there for a fill-up after a day time stint at St. Thomas. The call will typically occur that evening and ships will stay from 8 p.m. to midnight. While a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman says that "the primary purpose (for the visit) is the fuel stop," she notes that folks on St. Croix are lining up entertainment -- street fairs and such for passengers who wish to go ashore.
The addition of the short stop at St. Croix will impact passengers on ships such as Empress, Explorer, Jewel, Mariner, Navigator, Radiance and Voyager (of the Seas) and will last through October 2005.
This is great news not only for St. Croix, which due to a wide range of troublesome issues had lost nearly all of its cruise ship business, but also for passengers –- because St. Croix really is a fantastic cruise port (even if for a limited evening call). Big ships call at Frederiksted, the island's second biggest town. Frederiksted is currently in the midst of a major renewal effort that ranges from upgrading its shore side shops, bars and restaurants to building a new pier.