St. Thomas Tour Operator Attempting to Establish Exclusive Bubble for Cruise Passengers at Magens Bay

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.

Magens Bay from Mountain Top
From L to R” Hans Lollick, Great Tobago, Little Tobago, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Lovango Cay, Thatch Cay, Grass Cay, and St John

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

Dear Editor,

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

9 Replies to “St. Thomas Tour Operator Attempting to Establish Exclusive Bubble for Cruise Passengers at Magens Bay”

  1. Veronica Donn

    Why would anyone want to make such a proposal that puts local people of this beautiful place in such danger. No one knows how long thus ‘pandemic’ will last. Though it may be a U.S. territory does not mean Americans can just go there and do what they want. It does not make you privileged. These are people lives we are talking about. I am all for tourism and what it brings to the island but I am more for life and preserving it.

    1. Scott Sanders Post author

      When the cruise industry gets the green light to resume sailing and the port are open for cruise ships then the ships will start coming. It is the local government’s authority to make the decision to allow cruise ships to return and define criteria for guests to go ashore. I do not see how this would be looked at as privileged. It is not like a cruise ship will just show up unannounced, drop the gangway, and let passengers go do whatever they want for the day.

      This is simply an early attempt at creating a safe environment that keeps cruise passengers separated from locals and others in the area. Tourism will resume before the pandemic is over and it is important steps are taken to make early tourism as safe as possible. Reading the source article, it seems like DCL is not the only cruise line interested in creating safe excursions.

  2. Evelina Hodge

    No! Sheds 3 and 4 are prime sheds TO BE USED BY THE PEOPLE OF ST THOMAS AND ALL VIRGIN ISLANDERS! Not for the EXCLUSIVE use of ANY group of people. If you want to come to the beach, social distance among yourselves. The beach is large enough to do so safely. Put on a mask if interacting with others. Wash your hands; go in the water, but DO NOT ASK US, THE PEOPLE OF THE VI, to SEGREGATE on OUR beach!! Go lanhg wid ahyoh foolishness!

  3. Court

    Yes, there needs to be thought given to how life will move forward after the pandemic; however, vacations, cruises and on shore excursions are luxuries ànd not necessities. Making the beaches safe their employees and for all guests going to the beach should be the number 1 priority of the board, as opposed to creating a bubble for specific guests. This is a slippery slope, because I can see it going from a few hours, a specific section if the beach, once every other week, to the entire beach several times a week or everyday during the week. Furthermore, there is no way you will be able to practically control the bubble and keep but secure, from the parking out to the surf. Remember there is only one way in and out from shore….just my thoughts, I see more problems and questions vthan answers with this proposal.

  4. Belinda Phillips

    This proposal suggests segregation and separation! As a native Virgin Islander this is neither acceptable, feasible or doable.

    Do you really think it is right for a guest service agent off a Disney cruise ship to inform a local resident that they can’t be within sheds 3 and 4, the main areas of the beach? This sounds like hogwash to me and many other locals.

    Within the proposal, the recommended social distancing should be removed for the cruise lines? Why? If the locals must abide, so shall all the visitors.

    So if entitlement, invasion, of local space, breaking of rules and segregation is the initial proposition, what will be next?

    Magens Bay board members, I urge you to squash this proposal, it is not in the best interest of anyone.

    We welcome everyone; however, these tactics are neither acceptable nor warranted.


    Belinda Phillips, MBA

  5. Jackie

    I am totally in disagreement with this proposal!! Why should the safety of the passenger take priority over the natives? If the passenger want to visit Magen’s bay they need to practice social distancing, washing their hands, and wearing masks. Why should they be allowed to have the prime area of the beach? This is truly an insult to the natives; why should we settle for second class?? Shed 3 and 4 are the prime areas on the beach and as such the natives needs to have full access!! If the government support this proposal it will be a very sad day for the locals!!

  6. brett Obrien

    I think everyone has this backwards. The bubble isn’t intended to segregate or prevent the people of the Virgin Islands from their beach but to protect the locals from potential exposure from the people from the mainland where cases are higher. (These passengers will also be tested thoroughly) As a business owner whose trying to figure out a way to get his business going again maybe we can try and work on a solution as opposed to just throwing up the no’s. In fact if you are a local and you want to go into the beach area sectioned off for passengers knock yourself out just know the consequences. I think most passengers would be fine with no specific section and just social distancing and wearing a mask as some have mentioned. Also, these would be for excursions and not the whole day and not every day for that matter. I don’t have a dog in the hunt but I do love the Virgin Islands and it’s people and look forward to coming and visiting and contributing to the local economy.

  7. Anne Cobb

    Again people with money and influence is trying to cut local people with generations of beach enjoyment. We have Statesiders buying up beach property and fencing it off so locals can’t use and walk down our beaches. The Shoreline act and besides the pandemic we all know and seen the tourist don’t follow rules. Who next will step up and take over the other sheds at Magen’s beach until we have nothing available to locals. Even with Cruise ships docking this is why there is a lockdown going on now! The planes are packed, then cruise ships come our numbers spike and not having adequate medical the tourist as much as is needed for the economy, cannot freely cut and take sections of our beaches, our only outlet to enjoy ourselves like generations before us. They already put feelers out to British V.I. Why not use one of the small keys belonging to V.I.that is not owned by a billionaire. Where not a main island beach, why because they want what they want and money thrown at the local politicians, whether bribe and continue to take whatever they want. Our islands been through crippling double hurricanes and now pandemic, now Disney show no mercy but to pick the bones of the locals. They want to help? Donate to The Brothers workshop not the government, at least the money will help tell locals and still no money don’t buy our beaches..


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