The high end cruise ships which have been docking outside of Cruz Bay recently began making use of the V.I. National Park dock, tendering their guests in to the facility — much to the surprise of VINP Superintendent Mark Hardgrove.
While cruise ships are welcome to use the VINP dock in Cruz Bay, they must first obtain a special use permit or commercial use authorization. Hardgrove has been trying to contact the V.I. Port Authority (VIPA) in an effort to offer them the opportunity to bring the cruise ships in to the Creek, the VINP superintendent explained.
“I guess the cruise ships have returned to St. John, and we’re very, very happy about that but I’m looking forward to working with VIPA to determine the best landing site for them,” Hardgrove said. “We want to offer VIPA the authority to have them dock at the Creek and work with them for the best solution for Cruz Bay.”
The VINP has not intervened in the cruise ships’ use of its dock in the interest of promoting tourism, despite the fact that some of the cruise ships effectively take over the dock for a majority of the day when the ship is in port.
“We’re not going to do anything to negatively affect the cruise ships or the tourism industry, but we do want to coordinate with the V.I. government,” said Hardgrove. “They’re setting up welcome centers and tables with refreshments, and all of that would need to be reviewed as part of a permit.”
The VINP has established relationships with cruise ships tendering their guests from St. Thomas to the park dock and to Trunk Bay, however the cruise ships which have been anchoring outside of Cruz Bay seem to have jumped on the bandwagon without getting permission, Hardgrove added.
“We’ve got our long-term relationships, which are all under special use permits or commercial use authorizations, and then we’ve got the new folks who just joined us,” he said. “Right now, they might just be using what they think is the best location. We want to make sure we’re authorizing all commercial uses in accordance with National Park Service policies, regulations and laws.”
The VINP does charge a fee for the use of its dock, however Hardgrove is uncertain how the park’s fees compare to VIPA’s fees.
The VINP superintendent hopes to limit the number of cruise ships using the park dock in an effort to keep the dock open to residents and other guests, he explained.
“We want the facility to be used by the public, not solely by the cruise ships,” said Hardgrove. “The dock is for people to come and go, to visit the park and to get information from the Visitor’s Center.”
“Any commercial use activities we offer would not shut down the dock from the regular visitors,” said Hardgrove, who added he looks forward to resolving the cruise ship issue next year.