Update: Odd Staffing Issues Cause St. Thomas Docking Delays for Cruise Ships

October 26, 2010
St.-Thomas Update, 9:30 a.m. EDT: NCL spokeswoman Courtney Recht tells us that Norwegian Epic is calling in St. Thomas as planned this morning. We are not aware of any further docking delays. We'll keep you posted.

(October 26) -- Numerous cruise ships, including 225,282-ton, 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas, were delayed from docking in St. Thomas this morning due to bizarre and still-unresolved staffing issues.

A Cruise Critic reader tipped us off that local St. Thomas radio station AM 1340 is reporting that the boatmen who take the pilot from shore to cruise ship, called coxswains, are on strike. Pilots are required to board each cruise ship in St. Thomas and oversee its safe berthing. However, Monifa Marrero, a tourism representative for the port of St. Thomas, tells us that it is still unknown whether or not the workers are actually on strike. "We're still investigating," said Marrero. "We had a lot of call-ins [workers out sick]."

Either way, a contingency plan has gone into effect, and the cruise ships will use their own tender boats to pick up the pilots, who will then lead the ships in port as usual. The plan will remain in place until the situation with the seaman is resolved. There are five ships -- Emerald Princess, Carnival Dream, Carnival Liberty, Oasis of the Seas and Norwegian Sun -- scheduled to call today in St. Thomas.

Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez tells us that Oasis of the Seas suffered about a 1.5-hour delay. The ship will depart St. Thomas for St. Maarten an hour later than originally scheduled.

There is no change in the schedule for Norwegian Sun, according to NCL spokeswoman Courtney Recht. Sun is set to dock in St. Thomas at noon.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said both of the line's ships have now docked in St. Thomas, but each was about an hour late in doing so.

We have yet to hear from representatives of Princess Cruises.

We'll keep you posted.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor