Gambling ship to abandon St. Petersburg

A city official is disappointed a deal to sail the Ocean Jewel from the city's port didn't work out.

Published July 28, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - It's official: The Ocean Jewel won't be operating out of St. Petersburg any more.

Titan Cruise Lines, which owns the 450-foot gambling ship, sent a letter to city officials Tuesday saying passenger operations will be discontinued at the port.

The cruise line will continue to ferry passengers out of John's Pass in Treasure Island.

"This is basically what our customers are asking for," said Dennis Shepard, Titan's chief executive officer. "We tried to make it work, but our customers preferred to sail out of John's Pass."

Shepard asked the city for permission to berth the Ocean Jewel at the port for maintenance twice a month. He also asked to run a boat once a day from the port to supply the ship with fresh water, provisions and to dispose of trash.

But David Metz, the city's director of downtown enterprise facilities, said the city plans to terminate the ship's lease and negotiate a new short-term agreement, which must be approved by the City Council.

Council member Virginia Littrell said she was disappointed by the cruise line's decision to pull out of St. Petersburg just nine months after it started.

"We went out on a real limb to help them," Littrell said. "It's really too bad."