For a couple months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the U.S. Virgin Islands in September, the only ships that docked on shore were relief vessels, but on Nov. 3, St. Thomas welcomed a different kind of vessel: the massive Seabourn Odyssey cruise ship.
The return of the cruise-ship industry to these shores is a welcome sign on the islands, which are bouncing back thanks to the dogged efforts of locals, relief organizations and the cruise-ship industry itself. Royal Caribbean International, for instance, has committed resources to assist with the restoration of Magens Bay, St. Thomas’ treasured white-sand beach and park.
More than 25 cruise ships calls are scheduled for St. Thomas this month, bringing thousands of visitors to the islands—and many of the returning ships are well-suited to groups. Attendees can hop aboard Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess, known for superb wellness offerings at its world-class spa; Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas, offering activities such as an outdoor movie night, arcade, mini-golf and ice skating; and Celebrity Cruise’s Silhouette, a culinary favorite where multiple restaurants boast creative menus and a sophisticated ambience.
This news is more than positive for groups; it’s positive for the islands themselves. “Welcoming cruise visitors back to the U.S. Virgin Islands is a key element of our plan to boost economic activity, generate employment and stimulate recovery efforts,” says Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Watch for enhancements to hotels over the next year as well, as the islands prepare to reclaim their spot as a sought-after meetings destination.