Those who frequently read my cruise ship blogs know that Tortola is one of my favorite "must-visit cruise ship ports" in the Caribbean. Tortola is the largest and arguably most beautiful island in the British Virgin Islands. It is considered by many cruise experts to be one of the most desirable stops on any itinerary, offering world-class food, beaches, and shopping.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Al Henley, the Managing Director of the BVI Ports Authority, at the Seatrade Cruise Global Conference, an international exhibition and conference in South Florida for the cruise ship industry. Those in attendance included CEOs of the major cruise lines, vendors, maritime injury lawyers, and port authority representatives from around the world, including attendees from Penang and the Philippines.
Mr. Henley was understandably proud and excited about the recent developments at the cruise ship port in Road Town, Tortola, one of the fastest evolving cruise ship destinations in the world. Tortola is located only 22 miles from the much better known cruise ship destination in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Tortola's cruise ship port was recently extended, widened, and deepened to accommodate the new mega cruise ships (whose capacity exceeds 4,000 passengers plus crew) with the opening of the $52-million dollar expansion known as Tortola Pier Park. The world-class facility sits on five acres and will host 60 retail spaces and kiosks showcasing both international and local vendors, tour operators, and restaurants.
Tortola's 754-foot-long cruise ship pier has been widened by 33 feet and is now capable of simultaneously docking two modern, full-sized mega cruise ships. This will certainly encourage the major three cruise lines--Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian--to consider staying overnight in port, which would exert a tremendous positive economic impact on Tortola.
The new enlarged port may well help turn around and combat the decrease in cruise ship travel the BVI suffered in 2014, with only 269,000 passengers and 269 cruise ship calls. According to www.GlobaHotelNetwork.com, a global hospitality and marketing industry website, Tortola experienced its worst cruise passenger numbers in recent history during 2014, primarily because of the global economy and the country's inability to accommodate modern mega cruise ships. That has all changed now.
The best thing about Tortola has to be the warm and friendly people who inhabit this paradise. We encourage anyone considering a cruise to include Tortola on the itinerary, and we congratulate Mr. Henley and the Tortola British Virgin Islands Port Authority on their beautiful new and improved cruise ship port, wonderful new stores, and restaurants. We look forward to seeing you all soon on our next visit to your country.