Thursday, 30 January 2014

British Virgin Islands Firmly On Cruise Map

The wonderful Caribbean retreat of the British Virgin Islands will be firmly on the cruise map like never before from mid-2015 after the island government signed new long-term contracts with Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line.

The two companies have got together to guarantee a total of at least 425,000 passengers a year, a deal BVI Premier Orlando Smith says paves the way for the islands to be among the leading players of the Caribbean cruise industry.

The agreements, which grant preferential berthing to the two lines, were inked by Karl Holz, DCL president, and Colin Murphy, VP destination and strategic development for Norwegian, who will guarantee 350,000 passengers a year on top of Disney's 75,000.

The lines will pay a head tax of $15 starting in May next year that is subject to increase after five years based on a set formula that takes into account factors including inflation. The tax, much higher than the current rate, will help pay for a major upgrade and expansion of the cruise berth and landside facilities at Road Town, Tortola.

In a statement, the Premier said the Norwegian-Disney agreements mark the first time BVI has a guaranteed, year-round number of cruise passengers. He called the extension of the cruise pier and its associated landside development "the most fundamental" of decisions related to growing tourism through the cruise sector. He added: "By signing this berthing agreement, we are demonstrating, as a territory, that we are moving forward on the road of progress. The agreement is about the future sustainability of our cruise tourism sector."

Mr Smith added that the infrastructure improvements will enable BVI to accommodate the latest mega-ships such as Disney Dream and Norwegian Getaway, which is scheduled to replace St. Maarten with Tortola on its seven-day eastern Caribbean programmer starting in summer 2015.

The plans for Tortola involve dredging to expand the turning basin, navigation channels and berthing on both sides of the pier, lengthening the dock from 230 meters to 396 and widening it from 9.9 meters to 13.7. Additional mooring dolphins will be built along both sides, a new deck will be added to the widened pier, and landside development includes a visitor centre, restrooms, shopping village and a transportation staging area.

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