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Cruise Ships Return to St. Thomas

November 12, 1995|MIKE CLARY

MIAMI — The first cruise ships have returned to Charlotte Amalie,

the storm-ravaged port city on St. Thomas, while all but two of St. John's major hotels have reopened, and a new shopping mall in Christiansted, St. Croix, is expected to be ready for business in December.

But nearly two months after powerful Hurricane Marilyn ripped through the U.S. Virgin Islands, the winter tourist season will be far from normal. "If you've never been through a hurricane, you really don't understand what happened here," said Nick Pourzal, general manager of the 421-room Marriott's Frenchman's Reef, the biggest hotel on St. Thomas. "Although we will have some rooms after April, it will be late 1996 before we have full amenities."

Indeed, while most shops along Charlotte Amalie's waterfront have spruced up and reopened for the passengers of about 50 cruise ships scheduled to call in November, there are virtually no hotel rooms on the island available to tourists. Those rooms that are habitable are still occupied by emergency workers.

By Dec. 20, according to Virgin Island officials, some St. Thomas hotel rooms should be refurbished and available to tourists. But how many is uncertain.

St. Croix and St. John, which took only glancing blows from the Sept. 15 storm, are in better shape, according to Amy Adkinson, a Virgin Islands tourism spokeswoman. Many cruise lines have substituted Frederiksted, on St. Croix's western coast, for stops in St. Thomas and other hurricane-hit islands further east in the Caribbean.

Only a few of St. John's hotels remain closed, but included in that list are two of the biggest and best. The Hyatt Regency is scheduled to reopen Dec. 15, and the Caneel Bay in June, 1996, Adkinson said.

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