March 9, 2015
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Prinsendam did not dock at the main port in Charlotte Amalie, West India Dock, but at, Crown Bay, a few miles out of town. It used to serve the US Navy. According to the St. Thomas port website Holland America, Princess and Cunard have signed an agreement to deliver 230,000 passengers a year paying $9.35 a head. If the line brings more than 325,000 it gets a rebate. Crown By has two berths. One is designed for mega ships too big for the West Indian Dock. (It was built with the QM2 in mind.)
Excursion boats also use the harbor and a St. John ferry serves Crown Bay. But, if you believe the “Shopping Ambassador” who came onboard in Barbados and traveled with us to St. Thomas the main reason to visit St. Thomas is the shopping and while the big stores are located in downtown Charlotte Amalie, Crown Bay has built a shopping center to bring branches of the major shops, Little Switzerland, Diamonds International, Omni Jewelry, right to you at Crown Bay. Crown Bay also has coffee shops, camera stores, souvenir stalls, a bar in a windmill and a very nice independent book store. For the crewmembers there’s an Asian grocery and an American style a convenience store. Probably most important for both passengers and crew there’s free wi-fi. I started thinking about the new Old Sitka cruise ship dock and wondered if satellite stores from some of the downtown merchants could work. At the last ports of call some people do not have much energy to get on a bus to go to a town to see stuff but they sure like to shop. There may be something for Sitka to learn from Crown Bay.
And the reason to come to St. Thomas, according to Angelique, the “Shopping Ambassador,” is to “Shop ‘til you Drop.” It’s kind of a high end tropical Mall of America. Angelique’s lecture was different from all others on this cruise. She was not on board to give us the history or geology of St. Thomas. She was not there to inform us of our options. She was not there to serve us. She was there to sell, sell, sell using fear and greed as her motivators.
Angelique appears on stage in a form fitted and mini skirted suit with stiletto heels that dramatically display her features. She is South African speaking with a POSH English accent, the over articulated “T” and under articulated “R”. And she starts with fear. “There are still pirates in the Caribbean” and they will get you if you don’t follow her advice and buy ONLY from merchants on her map. She mentioned several types of shops but she is really there to flog diamonds. She tells the ladies that they deserve diamonds, and if your man will not buy them for you, you should buy them for yourself. Angelique gave herself a diamond for Christmas:
Love – Angelique.
And at the store she is flogging you can start now and upgrade later. Buy a small diamond, the next trip bring it back and trade it in, guaranteed, for a bigger rock, until you get that “forever” rock that you deserve.
And modern diamonds are oh so much more glittery than your mother’s or grandmother’s diamond. Modern cutting techniques, with more facets, make the diamond sparkle so much more than grandma’s rock. At the climax of her presentation she holds up her hand displaying the “Love Angelique” diamond and struts across the stage. “See how it sparkles? If you can see it sparkle — raise your hand, even in the back row you can see it sparkle.” Well yes, there is a spotlight on her and the diamond shines like a lighthouse from her finger. Angelique struts across the stage. Because of the spotlight she casts a shadow across the back screen emphasizing her stunning figure as her diamond flashes out, bringing ships safely to port. But this isn’t enough. You are forced to recognize her diamond. As she struts she sees Suzi in the back row. Suzi’s hand is not raised. She points a finger at Suzi while still holding the diamond hand in the spotlight and calls her out. “You in the back row, your hand isn’t up. Can’t you see the sparkle? Raise your hand.” I am incensed. This woman has called out my wife for not participating in her festival of bling — ordered her to participate. Now I love a good sales show. I seek out Uncle Tonoose and his sales pitch. That’s probably why I am in this room today. But Uncle Tonoose has more style. It’s like the scene in the old Cold War TV series “I Led Three Lives” when the Communist cell leader calls for a vote and one member does not raise his hand. “Comrade Philbrick, we ARE voting.” And Comrade Philbrick’s hand goes up with the rest.
Angelique appears to be winding up her diamond strut when one of the women in the audience calls out “what about the door prize” (valued at $600) other women call out too. A feeding frenzy is breaking out over the door prize. Angelique plays it beautifully, pulls out a shopping bag with the entries and calls out the winner. Then she tells every person in the hall that she will be at these shops at these times and will be their personal shopping ambassador and will personally make sure they get the best price on diamonds. And if you can’t be in the store when she is she will give you a VIP card that will get you to the manager who will personally make sure you get the best price. She dismisses the group telling them she will be in the back to give them their very own VIP card and when she does there is a small stampede toward the door. While I am sure there are enough VIP cards for all, two women with crazed looks run toward the back. A guy next to me says “did you see that?”
Angelique was a topic of discussion for the rest of the voyage. She impressed everyone but not always favorably. Several people walked out on her lecture. She had gone too far, this was not a lecture, this was hard sell — not appropriate in the minds of some of my fellow travelers. Suzi was one of those who complained to Holland America. She, and the two people before her on line, wanted to call out Angelique for suggesting we bend the law. When someone asked her about US customs allowances, she told them to buy a few small things as well as the big thing and just don’t mention the big thing to the customs man. Apparently there still are not only pirates in the Caribbean — but smugglers too.