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St. Croix gets sunny Sunday, cruise ship call

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ST. CROIX - The island buzzed with activity this weekend after two daytime cruise ship calls to Frederiksted's Ann Abramson Pier on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

"We are having a very merry Christmas," V.I. Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards said Sunday.

Holland America Cruise Line's Prinsendam came into port on Christmas Eve and the Zaandam arrived on Christmas Day. Richards said some rainy weather on Saturday prevented most passengers from getting off the ship, but there was nothing but bright sunshine on Sunday, and cruise passengers made the best of it.

The Prinsendam has a passenger capacity of 794 and 444 crew members. The Zaandam, a larger ship, carries up to 1,440 passengers and 647 crew members.

The Zaandam arrived around 8 a.m. Sunday, and cruise passengers were welcomed to the sounds of quelbe music by Jamsie and the All Stars and by performances by the Ali Paul Mocko Jumbies on the Frederiksted pier Sunday. And just a few feet away at Buddhoe Park, the band Liquid Sounds played reggae and calypso favorites as passengers surveyed what vendors had to offer.

Later that afternoon, the Zodiac Steel Band performed.

By noon, hundreds of visitors were wandering around Frederiksted and being shuttled in taxis to various parts of the island on tours. Veronica Gordon, also known as the "Bush Lady," said Sunday's port call was much better than the day before. Gordon was one of more than 20 vendors out in Buddhoe Park on Sunday.

"We had some rain Saturday and that hampered things a bit," Gordon said. "We saw a lot of families with children and grandchildren, which was nice. They all seemed to be in a more festive mood."

Gordon said she was pleased to see cruise ship visitors to the island but wished they would spend a little more.

"We're not making much money, but we're glad to have them," she said.

Taxis hustled between the west-end town and Christiansted throughout the day Sunday. Passengers also were taken to other sites, including Cane Bay beach, Carambola Beach Resort, Hotel on the Cay, Whim Plantation Museum and the rain forest.

Several jewelry stores in downtown Christiansted were open on Christmas. There also was entertainment at the Christiansted bandstand with Emanuel Silva performing live.

Some visitors stuck around the Frederiksted area - scuba diving off the pier, relaxing on Fort Frederik beach or milling around Strand Street and Frederiksted town. V.I. police officers patrolled the beach and Frederiksted streets making sure the passengers were safe.

Ceil Fillenworth and her husband, Tom, from Naples, Fla., sat and relaxed on the benches near the newly renovated Eliza McBean Clock Tower, near Buddhoe Park. The couple had never visited St. Croix.

Fillenworth said she was impressed with the look of Strand Street, which has undergone extensive renovations as part of the Frederiksted Economic Revitalization Project.

"It's really beautiful," she said.

The couple also was pleased to see stores open and vendors out despite the Christmas holiday.

"We're amazed they did all this just for us," she said.

Erk Elvejord, Holland America public relations director, said last week the cruise line wanted to try new ports to give passengers something different during the holidays. He said the cruise line, which had visited St. Croix before, may decide to make Frederiksted a permanent port.

The cruise visits come months after Norwegian Dawn canceled its request to berth at the Frederiksted pier in September. The cruise line has not revealed why it pulled out less than a month before it was expected to begin calls, V.I. Tourism officials said.

Cruise ships stopped making regular calls to St. Croix after the 2001-2002 winter season, citing concerns about crime and a lack of passenger interest in the island. Frederiksted businesses have been hit hardest by the lack of cruise ships.

Norwegian Dawn's port calls would have been in addition to Royal Caribbean's return this month for a second season of nighttime bunker calls for refueling from the HOVENSA oil refinery.

Richards thanked vendors, taxi drivers and merchants for working together to make the Christmas weekend visit a successful one.

"It was good because all of us are coming together to show St. Croix at its best," she said.

Source: Aesha Duval, Virgin Island Daily News

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I wish the best of luck to the Crucians. They have a much more interesting island than St. Thomas, so I hope that these visits by two HAL ships are the first of many.

Now if we can only get more cruise ships to visit the island I'd most like to see: Trinidad!

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