Norwegian Cruise Line's brand-new Norwegian Epic, the year's most-anticipated new ship, has just begun sailing from its Miami homeport, and will today make its inaugural call on ... St. Thomas, in the spotlight this week after the shooting death of a 14-year-old girl who was a passenger aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Victory. The teenager was ashore on a "safari bus" with her family en route to Coki Point Beach when she was caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between local gangs.
Inaugural calls are often marked with pomp and circumstance -- just yesterday, during Epic's first-ever call on St. Maarten, harbour, taxi and ship agents boarded the 155,873-ton, 4,100-passenger vessel for a celebratory plaque ceremony, according to local paper The Daily Herald. Indeed, a similar plaque exchange is on tap for today, despite a somber mood ashore as reported by local news outlet St. Thomas Source.
However, NCL spokeswoman Courtney Recht tells us this morning that today's tours to the Coki Beach area have all been canceled, citing that "the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance."
Also in town today is Celebrity Solstice. A spokeswoman for that line tells us that while no tours are offered to Coki Beach, the "Coral Land and Coral Sea" shore excursion, which passes through the area where the incident took place, has been canceled. Passengers with independently planned activities are being advised to avoid Coki Point Beach and the Coral World area. Furthermore, passengers who booked a shore excursion in St. Thomas through Celebrity Cruises, but would prefer to stay onboard, may cancel without penalty for a full refund.
Click here for more information on the cruise industry's reaction to this tragic incident.
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor
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