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The Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) and Royal Caribbean Group have partnered to revitalize the U.S. Virgin Islands’ cruise industry with a commitment from Royal Caribbean Group to develop infrastructure and attractions.

At the Seatrade Cruise Global event held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, VIPA executive director Carlton Dowe and Royal Caribbean Group’s v.p. of destination development Joshua Carroll signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two organizations. The MOU is a recommitment from Royal Caribbean Group to extend its existing 10-year, pier-use agreement for preferential berthing at VIPA’s cruise facilities in Crown Bay, St. Thomas and Frederiksted, St. Croix. The existing agreement was executed in June 2016, and by signing the MOU, VIPA and Royal Caribbean Group agree to collaborate on an extension of that agreement for an additional number of years.

Dowe also announced that in addition to guaranteed minimum revenues to VIPA and increased cruise visits to both St. Thomas and St. Croix, Royal Caribbean Group has expressed an interest in developing enhancements to the cruise facility in Crown Bay and making landside improvements in the Crown Bay District and St. Croix to enhance the island’s tourism products.

Dowe stated that this development signals an important boost for the territory’s economy and increased opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs in the tourism sector in the USVI. “This is earth-shaking,” he said during the press conference. “We are open for business.

“Royal Caribbean is the leading cruise company in the industry, and it has committed to a major infusion of capital as well as guaranteed cruise visits to our islands. In this currently strained economic climate, this substantial commitment indicates Royal Caribbean Group’s dedication to the people of this territory and our economy.

“This MOU extends what has been an exceedingly amicable, reliable, and beneficial agreement for both parties. Our unified goal is to ensure that the U.S. Virgin Islands is a premier destination in the Caribbean,” he said. USVI commissioner of tourism Joseph Boschulte added, “Royal Caribbean ships will be coming to the USVI for many years to come.”

“The U.S. Virgin Islands is one of our best destination partners and the opportunity to continue innovating on ways to refine the guest experience helps guide our decision to expand our already strong relationship with the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Carroll.

Celebrity Edge was the first ship to call on St. Thomas on July 20, and in St. Croix, Celebrity Equinox was the first ship to berth since the pandemic on Aug. 8. VIPA has had 22,991 cruise visitors to the territory since July 2021.