The good news for the U.S. Virgin Islands is that cruise ships are coming back to St. Croix after years of little to no cruise ship activity.

The bad news is the tourist arrivals declined 16.7% in August, the latest month for which statistics are available, according to the V.I. Bureau of Economic Growth.

Four cruise ships will call on St. Croix by the end of the year, and 51 ships will visit in 2009.

The USVI Tourism Department hosted two workshops on St. Croix earlier this month to prepare local businesses for the return of cruise ships. Topics covered customer service, tour operations, marketing native arts and crafts, and employee morale.

Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty urged everyone who comes in contact with cruise passengers "to endeavor to deliver the highest level of service to our visitors."

The decline in August cruise arrivals was steeper than it was for air. Stayover arrivals fell 3.5%, to 54,045, from the previous August. The number of cruise passengers dropped 22.5%, to 98,503.

Total arrivals from January through August reached 1.7 million, 1% up from the same period in 2007.

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