Cruise ships calling

CruiseWindstar and Seabourn cruise lines will be making stops off Cruz bay
this month as the winter season begins.  While, coincidentally,
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is in port in St. Thomas this weekend, the multi-masted
yacht Wind Spirit will be off St.
John.  The ship will also, during season, call on Jost
Van Dyke, Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Cruise-only rates begin at $1,695
per person based on double occupancy.  Seabourn, whose cruises can cost
$2,300, is including St. John on its 14-day itineraries departing
from Fort Lauderdale. 

Annual Friends meeting to hear Delegate

NpssignDelegate Donna M. Christensen will be the featured speaker at next month’s Friends of the Park annual meeting.  "She has been a supporter of national parks on a national level," said Joe Kessler, president of the group, as he announced details of the event scheduled for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 23.  The annual State of the Park address by superintendent Art Frederick is also on the agenda. 

Hurricanes dent tourism

"The geography of the American people is so poor," said Beverly Nicholson, president of the V.I. Hotel association, said as she reported a drop in the number of cruise ship visitors to the islands in September.  The number of people arriving by air, however, rose. News of storms affecting other islands led many people to assume the VIs had also been damaged, the St. John Source reported.  However, she added, territory-wide, September hotel occupancy averaged 38.8 percent over last year’s 29.5 percent.

Looking ahead for Christmas tourism, the industry is very optimistic.  Nearly all hotels on St. Thomas and St. John are booked solid, the report said, including even smaller properties such as Estate Zootenval on the smaller island.

Land donated for civic center

The St. John Community Foundation is planning to develop a civic and cultural center on 2.5 acres of mid-island land that’s been donated by Reliance Housing Corp., the developer of affordable housing on Gifft Hill.  "This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to us," organization President Lonnie Willis told the St. John Source.  This kind of facility could be used by local organizations and individuals for events and meetings which have opted to rent or pursue donations of space at the Westin Resort, local restaurants and other venues.  Carole DeSenne, the Foundation’s director, said she expects the center could also host family celebrations, weddings, and graduation parties.

Now comes the hard part, Desenne conceded, raising the money.  Willis said the project will be undertaken in phases and, as yet, there is no timetable.

Doing good and having fun

Vacationer or visitor, there are lots of worthy causes on the island that, in exchange for your support, Will also show you a good time.  The annual Sprauve School Benefit, at Caneel Bay, is a wonderful event.  The food is great, the wine wonderful, and the raffle and silent auctions very rewarding, no matter whether you win or lose. The gala will be Saturday, Jan. 22. Tickets are $75/person.  For reservations, call Peggy Blitz at 340-715-6622.

Then there’s the St. John Art Festival, Feb. 19-26.

Groundbreaking for high school

StjohnschoolA formal kickoff to construction of the gymnasium at the St. John School on Gifft Hill was held Monday, according to a report by the St.John Source.  Initially, the gymnasium will house classrooms for the school which was recently organized by the merger of Coral Bay and Pine Peace schools.  It is hoped the structure will be complete by March, said co-administrator Scott Crawford.  "This is an historic occasion. This is the first high school campus in the history of our island," he said. Students were asked to prepare a time capsule for the building.  Until construction is done, high schoolers will continue to meet at the Lumberyard, while the Pine Peace site will accommodate younger pupils.