On Oct. 23, the Norwegian Pearl will arrive in Road Town. It will be the first cruise ship of the 2014-2015 season, during which officials expect nearly 300 cruise ships to visit the Virgin Islands.
Despite some cancellations, government has confirmed 297 cruise ship calls for the coming tourist season, according to a statement issued Tuesday by Communications and Works Minister Mark Vanterpool.
The calls should bring 612,372 visitors to the territory between now and April, Mr. Vanterpool said. The figure is significantly higher than the 340,000 cruise ship passengers who visited in 2013, and higher even than the pre-recession peak of 571,000 in 2008.
Mr. Vanterpool, however, added that construction on the expanding cruise pier is three months behind schedule, and completion is now set for March instead of January.
“We are expecting some challenges due to delays in the construction project, but our government is making every effort to ensure that the territory can still benefit from this year’s season,” Mr. Vanterpool said. He added that contractors are “making all attempts to make up for lost time.”
The delayed pier works shouldn’t have any impact on the overall cruise pier development’s completion, still set for the end of 2015, Mr. Vanterpool said.
The cancelled calls — five of the six had been scheduled by Royal Caribbean ships — were scheduled for the end of this year.
Mr. Vanterpool said that government and the company “continue our close relationship,” and that VI officials consider the company a “long-term mutual partner in our cruise tourism industry.”
During construction, visitors will take tender boats between their ships and the islands they’re visiting. The BVI Ports Authority is negotiating with transport companies here and abroad to provide the tendering services, Mr. Vanterpool said.