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Governor Bryan Highlights USVI’s Influence in Cruise Tourism at Seatrade 2024

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The Icon of the Seas and Celebrity Apex docked at the Austin Monsanto Marine Terminal, January 31, 2024. Photo by Ernice Gilbert, V.I. Consortium.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. recently highlighted the U.S. Virgin Islands’ significant role in global cruise tourism at the Seatrade Global conference in Miami, emphasizing the territory’s commanding 5 percent market share. At a Government House press briefing this Monday, Governor Bryan shared insights from his participation in the conference, which took place from April 8 to 11. This event annually attracts executives, stakeholders, and government officials worldwide to discuss cruise industry trends and partnerships.

Initially skeptical about the conference’s value, Governor Bryan was impressed by the productive discussions this year, including meetings with leaders from major cruise lines such as Disney, Norwegian, MSC, Holland America, and Princess Caribbean. “These discussions were pivotal in shaping the decisions we’re making to advance our tourism sector,” he stated. The governor pointed out the exciting opportunities for St. Croix, noting its high potential for growth in the cruise industry.

Governor Bryan also noted that cruising has broadened globally, reaching non-traditional destinations like Palau and South Korea. Despite growing competition, he proudly stated that the Virgin Islands attract 1.6 million passengers annually, maintaining a strong presence with a 5 percent share of the global market.

He praised the V.I. Port Authority and V.I. Department of Tourism for their efforts in upgrading the tourism infrastructure, from boardwalks to restrooms, enhancing the overall visitor experience. With tourism accounting for 70% of the territory’s economy, these enhancements are proving essential. “These initiatives and investments are really proving to be worthwhile,” he remarked.

The governor also hinted at upcoming legislative changes inspired by discussions at Seatrade, aimed at boosting the cruise and tourism sectors, particularly on St. Croix. He expressed optimism about future public-private partnerships that emerged from the event.

Concluding his reflections on the conference, Governor Bryan shared that it offered a valuable perspective on how the Virgin Islands positions itself in the international market and leverages data analytics. He expressed satisfaction with the territory’s ongoing success and its role in the broader trend of global tourism expansion.

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The Top Hotels in the U.S. Virgin Islands

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The U.S. Virgin Islands offer a variety of luxurious accommodations that promise unforgettable experiences. Here are ten of the best hotels in the region:

1. The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas

Located on the picturesque Great Bay, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, is synonymous with luxury. This resort boasts elegantly appointed rooms and suites, each with private balconies offering stunning ocean views. Guests can indulge in world-class dining at one of the four on-site restaurants, relax at the infinity pool, or enjoy the pristine beach. The resort also offers a variety of water sports and a renowned spa for ultimate relaxation.

2. Caneel Bay Resort, St. John

Set within the Virgin Islands National Park, Caneel Bay Resort provides a unique blend of natural beauty and refined luxury. The resort’s rooms and cottages are scattered across its 170-acre peninsula, offering breathtaking views and direct beach access. Guests can explore the park’s hiking trails, snorkel in the crystal-clear waters, or enjoy a meal at one of the resort’s beachfront restaurants.

3. The Buccaneer, St. Croix

The Buccaneer is a historic resort that seamlessly blends old-world charm with modern amenities. Located on a 340-acre estate, the resort offers a variety of accommodations, including oceanfront rooms, luxury suites, and private cottages. Guests can enjoy three private beaches, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, and a full-service spa. Dining options range from casual beachside fare to fine dining experiences.

4. Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, St. Thomas

This expansive resort offers a vibrant atmosphere with extensive facilities, making it ideal for families and groups. Frenchman’s Reef features multiple pools, including an infinity pool with spectacular views, a full-service spa, and several dining options ranging from casual to fine dining. The resort’s location provides easy access to downtown Charlotte Amalie for shopping and sightseeing.

5. Gallows Point Resort, St. John

Gallows Point Resort is renowned for its serene environment and breathtaking views of Cruz Bay. The resort offers spacious suites with fully equipped kitchens and private balconies. Guests can relax by the oceanfront pool, snorkel in the protected waters, or enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant. The resort’s prime location makes it a convenient base for exploring St. John’s many attractions.

6. Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, St. Thomas

Bolongo Bay Beach Resort offers a laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere with an all-inclusive option. The resort features beachfront rooms, a variety of water sports, and a lively beach bar. Guests can participate in activities such as sailing, paddleboarding, and snorkeling. The resort’s all-inclusive plan includes meals, drinks, and entertainment, ensuring a hassle-free vacation.

7. Secret Harbour Beach Resort, St. Thomas

This boutique resort provides a more intimate experience with personalized service. Secret Harbour Beach Resort features spacious suites with full kitchens and private balconies overlooking the bay. The resort’s secluded beach is perfect for snorkeling, swimming, or simply relaxing. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant and bar, as well as a variety of water sports and activities.

8. The Palms at Pelican Cove, St. Croix

The Palms at Pelican Cove is known for its intimate setting and exceptional hospitality. The resort offers comfortable rooms and suites, all with private balconies or patios. Guests can relax by the beachfront pool, dine at the oceanfront restaurant, or explore the vibrant coral reefs just offshore. The resort also hosts regular events and activities, creating a welcoming and engaging atmosphere.

9. Margaritaville Vacation Club, St. Thomas

Margaritaville Vacation Club offers a vibrant, tropical atmosphere perfect for those seeking a fun and relaxed vacation. The resort features colorful rooms and suites, multiple dining options, and a variety of recreational activities. Guests can enjoy the beachfront pool, water sports, and live entertainment, all while soaking up the laid-back island vibes.

10. Estate Lindholm, St. John

Estate Lindholm is a charming, family-owned boutique hotel set on a historic plantation. The hotel offers cozy rooms with stunning views of Cruz Bay and the surrounding islands. Guests can relax in the lush gardens, take a dip in the pool, or explore the nearby hiking trails and beaches. The personalized service and peaceful atmosphere make Estate Lindholm a hidden gem in St. John.

Each of these hotels provides a distinctive blend of luxury, comfort, and island charm, making them top choices for visitors to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Tourism and Water Sports: Exploring the US Virgin Islands’ Aquatic Wonders

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The US Virgin Islands (USVI), with their stunning turquoise waters and vibrant marine life, are a paradise for water sports enthusiasts and marine tourists. From snorkeling and scuba diving to sailing and paddleboarding, the islands offer a myriad of aquatic adventures that attract visitors from around the world. As marine tourism continues to thrive, the USVI is reinforcing its status as a premier destination for water-based activities.

The USVI’s underwater world is a treasure trove of natural beauty. The coral reefs, home to an array of colorful fish, sea turtles, and other marine creatures, are a major draw for snorkelers and divers. Popular snorkeling spots like Trunk Bay on St. John and Buck Island Reef National Monument off St. Croix provide easy access to thriving marine ecosystems. These locations offer crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life, making them ideal for both novice and experienced snorkelers.

For those looking to dive deeper, the USVI boasts several world-class scuba diving sites. The wreck of the RMS Rhone near Salt Island, though technically part of the British Virgin Islands, is a popular excursion from the USVI. This sunken ship, teeming with marine life and encrusted with coral, provides an unforgettable diving experience. St. Croix’s Frederiksted Pier, known for its vibrant underwater landscape, and Cane Bay Wall, a dramatic drop-off teeming with sea life, are also top diving destinations.

Sailing is another quintessential activity in the USVI. The steady trade winds and calm seas create perfect conditions for sailing enthusiasts. The islands’ numerous bays and coves offer sheltered anchorages, making it easy for sailors to explore at their own pace. Charter companies provide a range of options, from crewed luxury yachts to bareboat charters, allowing visitors to tailor their sailing experience. The annual St. Thomas International Regatta, one of the Caribbean’s premier sailing events, attracts sailors from around the globe and showcases the islands’ sailing prowess.

Kayaking and paddleboarding are excellent ways to explore the USVI’s scenic coastlines and mangrove forests. Guided tours offer insights into the local ecology and provide opportunities to encounter wildlife such as rays, turtles, and a variety of bird species. Bioluminescent bays, where glowing microorganisms light up the water at night, offer a magical kayaking experience on St. Croix.

Fishing is another popular activity in the USVI, with both inshore and deep-sea fishing opportunities available. Anglers can target a variety of species, including tarpon, bonefish, marlin, and mahi-mahi. Local charters provide all the necessary equipment and expertise, ensuring a successful and enjoyable fishing trip.

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Security Upgrade Proposed for Havensight Mall with Peace Officer Status

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Security personnel at Havensight Mall may soon receive a significant boost in authority as Bill 35-0238, aimed at elevating their status to peace officers, has passed its initial legislative test. Sponsored by Senator Milton Potter, the bill specifically targets qualified enforcement officers from the Government Employees’ Retirement System (GERS) who are stationed at the mall.

Senator Potter highlighted the urgent need for enhanced security measures at Havensight, a prime destination for both locals and nearly a million tourists each year. He cited recent violent incidents, including a 2022 shooting during a robbery attempt and a fatal shooting in the parking lot in October 2023, as key drivers for the proposed security overhaul.

The bill advocates for peace officer training for these officers at the V.I. Police Academy, enabling them to respond to emergencies, enforce laws, and maintain order on the premises. Roy Moorehead, chief security officer of the mall, supports this move as a strategic step to strengthen the safety and security framework at Havensight Mall, enhancing its reputation as a secure venue and boosting local tourism and spending.

Support from GERS and the VIPD, including Assistant Commissioner Sidney Elskoe, underscores the initiative’s alignment with broader public safety goals. The financial impact on the government is minimal, as GERS plans to allocate Havensight Mall’s budget to train and increase the salaries of four to six officers.

During the legislative discussions, Senator Franklin Johnson reminded the GERS representatives of the extensive duties that come with peace officer status, applicable even beyond the mall’s boundaries. Senator Novelle Francis expressed support but cautioned about additional considerations such as insurance, retirement benefits, and training expenses.

Despite widespread legislative backing, Senator Kenneth Gittens opposed the bill, proposing instead to bolster the existing tourist-oriented police efforts by channeling funds directly to the V.I. Police Department and suggesting a merger between the V.I. Port Authority and the West Indian Company to enhance the police budget.

The bill now advances to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, moving one step closer to potentially transforming the security landscape at Havensight Mall.

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