Dec. 3, 2003 – A familiar sign of the start of season will be in evidence on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront and at Gallows Bay on Friday as the 600-passenger Salacia operated by V.I. Fast Ferry returns for its third winter of service between St. Thomas and St. Croix.
The blue-and-white ferry will run on the next two weekends, then on Dec. 19 will commence a full schedule of three round trips daily.
Kevin Matthews, director of operations for Boston Harbor Cruises, Fast Ferry's parent company, said on Wednesday that he is looking forward to a good season. "Last year was tough," he said, "with the economy in general and with the Mermaid running sporadically, too."
The Mermaid was a St. Croix-based competitor that started up last winter and offered service off and on over five months.
As far as V.I. Fast Ferry, "all indicators are good for this year," Matthews said. "We're in fantastic shape; the same crew is returning." He said the personnel working on the Salacia while it's in the territory are about 90 percent local.
"We've had some Virgin Islanders who have come up and worked the summer season with us in Boston," he said. "Now everyone looks forward to coming back."
The other ferry company, Chris Elliott's Mermaid Fast Ferries, had a spotty performance last year in its operation of the 356-passenger Calypso I and finally suspended service. Matthews said on Wednesday that if a competitor doesn't hold up his end of the business, it's bad for the whole marine industry. "Good competition is good for everybody," he said, "and bad competition is bad for everybody."
He said that "people tend to think of the ferries as all one company." But "when people came to us with Mermaid tickets, we could not accept them," he said, adding that he believes most people now realize "there were two different ferries."
The Salacia isn't likely to have any competition in the near future.
Elliott had said in September that he would have two vessels in operation this season, "shooting for late October or early November" as the startup time. (See "Salacia to return; Mermaid to run 2 ferries".) However, he said on Wednesday that one of the vessels is in New England in dry dock and "the second isn't ready yet — it's still in the Mediterranean."
He said the boat in New England is undergoing "routine maintenance" and he now expects it to be in operation locally in mid-January.
Meantime, V.I. Fast Ferry and Seaborne Airlines may be offering a unique package soon. They are discussing a St. Thomas-St. Croix excursion deal that would allow passengers to travel early in the day by seaplane and return on the Salacia later than the planes fly. Matthews said on Wednesday that talks are ongoing. (See "Sky to sea could be win-win for travelers".)
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