Retail Merchants Underwhelmed by Ship's Debut Visit

The inaugural visit of the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship on Tuesday wasn’t the banner day many retailers hoped for, but most said Wednesday they are hopeful that when the ship pulls into Crown Bay next Tuesday, passengers will start spending.
"I do think the story will be next Tuesday," said Caribbean Surf Co. owner Janelle Zachman.
The largest cruise ship in the world wasn’t carrying its full capacity of 5,400 guests and 2,165 crew members. Instead, many of the passengers on board were travel agents and members of the travel media, Tourism Department spokesman Allegra Kean-Moorehead said. She estimated the ship was about half full.
Additionally, some retailers located along the waterfront complained that taxi drivers dropped off Oasis passengers at Market Square rather than the usual Emancipation Garden area. Those passengers didn’t seem to make it as far as the waterfront.
Michelle Farnsworth at Local Color, another waterfront store, echoed Zachman’s remarks. She hopes that when the Oasis of the Seas visits again, taxi drivers will drop off half the passengers at Market Square and the other half at a location beneficial to waterfront stores.
However, several Main Street shop owners said business just wasn’t what they expected.
Vivek Daswani, an owner at the Main Street store Royal Caribbean, saw an increased number of people in his store, but that didn’t translate into dollars.
"Sales weren’t as impactful as we anticipated," Daswani said.
Daswani said he’s optimistic that when the Oasis of the Seas visits next Tuesday, business will be better because the ship will carry only paying passengers, not "industry" people.
Max Daswani, owner at Artistic Jewelers on Main Street, said his store had lookers but only a few people were buying.
"In terms of serious shopping, it definitely was not happening," Max Daswani said.
However, he said that visits by the Oasis of the Seas provide the potential for an increase in retail sales.
According to Zachman, she put on extra staff at the waterfront store, but they had no trouble keeping up with business. As for her Havensight store, she said it didn’t get any business because the Oasis of the Seas was tied up at Crown Bay.
"It was an average day, not gangbusters," Zachman said.
The Oasis of the Seas will call every Tuesday until May. After that it will visit St. Thomas every other week, Kean-Moorehead said.
Tuesday also saw the inaugural visit of Carnival Dream, which tied up at Havensight.
While Tuesday was a busy day with a total of five ships in port, traffic flowed smoothly thanks to advance planning by the Public Works Department. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls could not be reached for further comment.

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