We have to wonder what vital activities tourism officials, especially Commissioner Pamela Richards, were involved with in the past 10 days that they were unable to take advantage of an unexpected Christmas gift that was dropped in the lap of the Virgin Islands: some 760 passengers, who had reportedly between $4,000 and $6,000 to spend on a Christmastime cruise, and up to 360 crew members who minister to them.
The Royal Olympic Cruise Lines' Olympic Voyager had been heading for a trip to Brazil, exploring up the Amazon River, and then to French Guyana and Dominica, when it was detoured to St. Thomas and ordered by court action in Hawaii to remain in U.S. waters.
And it's been "treading water" off St. Thomas ever since. Only rumors – and perhaps a few disgusted passengers – were flying: yes, they would get full refunds; yes, they would be back in Port Everglades as scheduled. But day by day, the ship sat and the passengers traveled by tender to see what St. Thomas shores had to offer.
What was it that kept Richards from laying on a smorgasbord of activities and choices for that captive audience, events that would have enriched St. Croix, St. John, even the British Virgin Islands, and been a wonderful example of the hospitality of St. Thomas and the Virgin Islands?
Did no one in Tourism notice all these people, lolling around on waterfront benches and opining for the media whether they liked having a whole week in St. Thomas, or were bored to tears? Did no one suggest to Richards that she enlist local businesses in a major effort to host these people whose Christmas so was unlike what they had anticipated?
Just a few things that could have been done to turn these reluctant visitors into confirmed Virgin Islands vacationers:
— a chartered ferryboat trip to St. Croix for a Festival event, with a steel band to entertain them on the late-night return trip;
— a chartered ferryboat trip to St. John, coordinated with National Park to provide, perhaps, boat trips or snorkeling trips around the island and coordinated with taxi vans for road trips around the island, or a day at Maho Bay;
— a coordinated effort with safaris to offer transportation to all St. Thomas churches for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.
— a chartered boat trip to Virgin Gorda.
— a chartered shopping trip to Old San Juan.
— polling of the downtown stores and restaurants to see if they might have been willing to put on a whole week of Destination Downtown Nights.
Commissioner Richards, you had a great opportunity to get a lot of bang for only a few bucks. Looks like you blew it.
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