On Friday, August 21, 2020, the Magens Bay Authority assembled via Zoom for a monthly board meeting. According to a report from the Virgin Islands Source, the board discussed an informal proposal from Cruise Ship Excursions tour company to set up an exclusive zone, bubble, on the beach, roughly in the middle of the mile-long stretch for Disney Cruise Line guests booked on a Port Adventure.
Cruise Ship Excursions operators, Billy and Martyn Crawford and Judy Reeve proposed that every other Wednesday for 3 and a half hours, Disney Cruise Line passengers would be allowed to congregate strictly among themselves on beach lounges set up in advance of their arrival, somewhere between shed 3 and shed 4, with no social distancing requirements. Attendants from either the cruise ship or the tour company would be assigned to guide locals and others away from the Disney designated area.
“The cruise line wants to keep people as far away from the guests as possible”Martyn Crawford
Based on the report from the meeting, Disney is requesting an exclusive portable, air conditioned restroom, and a temporary concession stand for water, canned, and bottled beverages.
Disney also told the tour company they recommend all guests to remain within the defined bubble proposed for Magens Bay.
Magens Bay Authority Board did not take any action on the informal proposal brought up by Cruise Ships Excursions, but did request the tour operators to provide a detailed written proposal for future board consideration.
Although no action was taken, the existence of informal proposal offers a glimpse into Disney Cruise Line’s plans for when cruise operations resume and the steps they are taking to ensure guests are in the safest environment possible when and if they choose to go ashore in ports that are accepting cruise passengers.
Magens Bay is a park consisting of 68 pristine acreage: one mile of white sand beach, a six acre arboretum consisting of large trees from four tropical continents, a two acre camping ground with parking, 5 acres of coconut groves and 15 acres of mangroves and wetlands. Below are some pictures from our visit to Magens Bay in 2013 and you can read more about our experience in this blog post.
At this time, based on the current CDC No Sail Date and Disney Cruise Line’s suspension of all departures through at least October 31, 2020, the earliest return, would be mid-November when the Disney Fantasy calls on St. Thomas during at 7-Night Very MerryTime Eastern Caribbean Cruise departing Port Canaveral on November 14th.
Disney Cruise Line’s Magens Bay Beach Break port adventure has been a regular offering when stopping in St. Thomas, and includes transportation from the port, and a lounge chair for $59.00 (ages 10 and up), and $49.00 (ages 3 to 9).
As a cruise passenger, what would you like to see addressed in port adventures when cruise operations resume?
UPDATE: Board adheres to strict policy on Magens Bay matters; Disney Cruises’ request no different
I am writing, as chairperson of the Magens Bay Authority, to address misperceptions circulating in the community about how the Authority considers proposals for various uses and activities on Authority property and also to clarify a recent informal discussion held between the board and a local tour operator, Cruise Ship Excursions.
The procedure is simple. The applicant contacts the authority by letter or email to begin communication. The applicant then presents the proposal to the board members at a regular monthly board meeting. Thus, at its Aug. 21 meeting, all members and the general and business managers were present, along with three persons from Cruise Ship Excursions inquiring on behalf of Disney Cruises, and a reporter from an online newspaper. A preliminary request had been circulated to the board before the meeting.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney Cruises offered a Magens Bay tour (for up to 200 persons) which included reserved lounge chairs in the vicinity of the concession area. In planning for an eventual return to St. Thomas, Disney considered the needs for meeting CDC requirements on board their ships and for land tours. They wanted to ensure that their passengers did not unnecessarily come in contact with residents and vice versa due to COVID-19 concerns. Thinking about reducing numbers — to 100 or less tour participants — and increasing spacing between groups, they made a proposal for staging the tour at a less crowded part of the beach and providing services to make it convenient to keep the group concentrated in one area, with the aim of reducing COVID-19 spread. Hence the use of the proposed bathroom trailer, which would be for the exclusive use of the tour participants. The tour and the trailer would have attendants.
Board members raised a number of questions of the tour company. One was to verify that “exclusivity” referred to the use of the bathroom trailer, but not to the use of that part of the beach. When asked if other beach users would be prohibited from passing through the area in any direction, the answer was that there would be no barriers or restrictions. The proposed use of an alternate location is temporary, only during the COVID-19 pandemic. For questions which could not be answered at the time, the company was asked to supply more detailed information. The application was tabled for further consideration at another meeting pending receipt of the information.
The public should be aware that almost all activities which occur on authority properties have come before the board. In some cases, the policy has been set for repetitive activities like shed or tent rentals, weddings, church or family gatherings and celebrations. Applications for these are in a standard format and are handled by the office and manager. Some proposals do not come before the board because they are in conflict with established rules. As an example, a proposal for jet ski rentals would not be considered because jet skis are not allowed at Magens Bay Park. Other proposals for activities such as large food events (King of the Wing), athletic events (Kid’s Triathlon), boating events (the USVI Poker Run), tours centering on the parks’ flora and fauna, health fairs, photo shoots for national advertising campaigns, filming of major motion pictures and group beach tours come before the board for consideration and negotiation of the conditions under which the activity will be allowed.
In the past, meetings were held at Shed 4 at Magens Beach. Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic meetings occur by ZOOM. The applicant presents the proposal and board members ask questions. There can be a variety of outcomes. If the information supplied is sufficient, a vote is taken then with the applicant present. If more information is required, the application may be tabled pending its receipt. In some cases there may be multiple meetings before a decision is reached. The conditions of the approval, if granted, are stated and the formalization and follow through are done through the office.
The board and I hope this statement clarifies the issues at hand.
— Katina E. Coulianos is chairperson of the Magens Bay Authority, which oversees Magens Bay Park.Letter to the Editor The Virgin Island Daily News