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St. Croix will welcome the first cruise ship of the season this Friday when the Oceania Regatta docks at the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility in Frederiksted, marking the return of regularly scheduled cruise calls to St. Croix after a long hiatus. Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said, "Over the past year and a half the government of the Virgin Islands under the leadership of Governor John de Jongh has worked very diligently to persuade the cruise lines to add St. Croix to their itineraries and we are extremely pleased to now welcome the first cruise passengers of the season to the island."
Welcome festivities planned by the Department of Tourism begin at 9 a.m. and continue until the ship's departure at 6 p.m. Entertainment includes performances by the Rising Stars Steel Pan Orchestra, The Guardians of Culture Mocko Jumbies, the St. Croix Educational Complex Quelbe Band and the St. Croix Heritage Dancers. As the 684 cruise passengers disembark, they will be greeted by mocko jumbies dancing to the sounds of steel pan music as well as greeters from the Department of Tourism offering recommendations on the day's activities, souvenirs and Cruzan rum samples. Crew members will receive USVI-branded phone cards and information about the island. A private "Plaque and Keys" ceremony is also planned aboard the ship where Nicholson-Doty will present a plaque to the ship's captain commemorating the ship's inaugural visit to St. Croix.
In August, the Department of Tourism and the Economic Development Authority hosted the Preparing the Path conference on St. Croix aimed at preparing the community for the return of the cruise industry. The conference, attended by nearly 200 participants, covered topics from customer service and tour operations to marketing native arts and crafts and starting a business. In November, the agencies sponsored two days of free customer service training designed to prepare local business leaders and their front-line employees for the arrival of cruise passengers. The next scheduled cruise call is on Jan. 5, 2009. More than 60 calls are scheduled for St. Croix in 2009. For more information, visit www.usvitourism.vi.
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