Tortola Pier Park, 2015

Gateway to the BVI

Tortola Pier Park: the New Port of Call

By C. Colli and J. Critchley

A mere 20 years ago cruise ships were a novelty in the British Virgin Islands. Known as the sailing capital of the Caribbean, the BVI was a place of billowing sails and yachting vacations. Visitors stayed in hotels, or villas, but rarely came for the day aboard a cruise ship. But with the cruise ship industry growing around the world, it was only a matter of time, before the BVI would embrace this popular form of tourism.

 

Now the sight of Quantum class ships, standing tall at an enlarged cruise ship pier in Road Town, is a common one. The first thing passengers encounter as they disembark for their day of exploration and shopping is the new Tortola Pier Park (TPP). Open to cruise ship passengers, island visitors and residents, the Pier Park is a shopping, dining and entertainment center that reflects the culture of these islands.

Partially open since the summer TPP will celebrate its Grand Opening on February 16th when close to its full slate of stores and facilities will be available. Its opening will forever change the way passengers perceive the BVI. No longer will it be the port where shopping is an afterthought; where passengers went on taxi tours to explore local beaches, booked day sails to visit the outer islands, went zip lining or swam with the dolphins. But shopping? That could wait until the next port of call.

 

With a wide range of shops not found in other areas, the Tortola Pier Park has changed all that. Many of the shops represent the traditions and singular beauty of these islands: one shop sells sculpture and jewelry fashioned from ground coral; another is devoted to products made from the conch shell, including one-of-a-kind lamps, fashion jewelry and a must have conch shell horn – the type still used to announce the arrival of island fishing boats.

 

“When persons come off the cruise ship they get the local experience right off the bat,” says Leasing and Marketing Manager, Meslyn Allan. “You don’t find that in other cruise destinations and most of the products you will find have been made from scratch here in the BVI and this has been well received by the passengers. When we started looking at the tenant mix for TPP (Tortola Pier Park) we made sure that whatever we are doing here does not compete directly with others, such as Crafts Alive Village. In some cases retailers have collaborated with BVI artists and crafts people and have included their work in their stores. So with the variety we have, and the products we have on sale, we have really set ourselves apart and created a facility that both visitors and residents will enjoy.”

So, what else can you find there? There is local handcrafted pottery, including vases, sconces and other decorative items that utilize the colors and textures of the Caribbean. There are locally made drinks from maubi (a West Indian favorite) to passionfruit juice, as well as piquant hot pepper sauces, and homemade jams and jellies made from seagrape and other BVI grown fruits. Fine jewelry and watches can be found here, as well as unique Caribbean designer fashions which will not be found in major cities, or at the next port of call.

Want something to eat? Try one of the park’s restaurants. The music of the islands from steel pan to reggae can be heard there – and if you want assistance with island tours and activities, representatives of the BVI Tourist Board are on hand, passing out literature and answering questions.

 

The Tortola Pier Park is a gateway for all the activities and experiences cruise ship passengers will encounter during their day-long stay in the BVI. They will not only shop and eat at TPP but will also carry on through its gates to visit the many fine shops and restaurants located elsewhere in Road Town and throughout the islands. They will book tours to explore the islands’ beaches or hop on a ferry to visit The Baths on Virgin Gorda. They will go diving and, yes, sailing.

 

From the minute passengers disembark from their ship and enter the Tortola Pier Park, their BVI adventure begins. First impressions count and the Tortola Pier Park will get cruise passengers off to a good start.