by Jonathan Vatner | May 01, 2007

Cruiseport Boston
Cruiseport Boston
hopes to add a new
ship terminal by 2009.

Some of the most appealing cruises leave from domestic ports that didn’t even exist a decade ago. Like so many current trends in the meetings and travel industry, the change came in the wake of 9/11. In those months when many vacationers and meeting-goers were wary of air travel, cruise lines began sending ships to ports in waterfront cities all over the United States.

“We realized people did not want to fly, so we decided to put our ships where they could drive,” says Marianne Schmidhofer, director of charter, meeting and incentive sales for the Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line.

This diffusion of ships per se has not been of tremendous benefit to national meeting and incentive planners, who, according to Schmidhofer, are more interested in new ships and enviable itineraries; however, for regional meetings, it has created a hassle-free and less expensive alternative to flying the group to a traditional cruise port. Many coastal cities, large and small, now feature cruise-ship terminals -- and sometimes even residents don’t know about them.

Following are descriptions of 10 new or newly ascendant domestic ports, along with some of the impressive itineraries they offer.

The port in Brooklyn, N.Y.


A former cargo pier
now welcomes cruise ships
to Brooklyn, N.Y.

Manhattan/Brooklyn cruise terminals
New York City

With about a million passengers embarking per year, the Manhattan Cruise Terminal is the fourth-busiest in the United States. While its roots go back to the golden age of cruising in the 1930s, it wasn’t until 2003 that the revamped terminal began year-round operations. It’s the primary home port for transatlantic crossings and also popular for trips to Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean. Construction is under way to convert the port’s five berths to three, to permit the largest ships to dock. Three more berths are planned over the next 30 years.

On April 15, 2006, to accommodate overflow and help spur development of Brooklyn’s waterfront, a revamped terminal opened at Pier 12 in Red Hook, Brooklyn (the facility had been used as a cargo pier since the 1850s).

A few sample itineraries from both of the above terminals:

* The Queen Mary 2 frequently sails out of New York; a few times per year, the vessel makes four-day jaunts. For example, over Presidents Day weekend, Easter weekend, Memorial Day weekend and Independence Day weekend, it sails to Eleuthera, the Bahamas, for four days, roundtrip. Over Labor Day weekend, the ship sails to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

* Carnival Cruise Lines makes four-day journeys to Saint John, New Brunswick, throughout the summer, on the Carnival Victory.

* Princess Cruises offers seven-day voyages to the Caribbean and Mexico from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, aboard the Golden Princess.

* In addition to seven-night cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line sends guests on one-night dinner-and-dance cruises out of New York. This year, 13 such jaunts are scheduled, mostly on Saturday nights through the late summer and early fall.

Port of New Orleans

New Orleans’ port, right at the edge of the French Quarter, provides a convenient embarkation site for Louisiana residents and visitors alike. River cruising as well as ocean journeys are offered here.

For a while following Hurricane Katrina, ships stopped coming -- but now they’re back, and the facilities are expanding. The $37 million Erato Street Cruise Terminal opened last September, next to the Julia Street terminal, and a third terminal is in the planning stages.

Sample itineraries:

* Carnival Cruise Lines runs four- and five-day cruises on the Carnival Fantasy; Carnival Triumph will inaugurate seven-day Caribbean cruises in August.

* Norwegian Cruise Line offers seven-day Western Caribbean cruises on the Spirit and the Sun.

* Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas plies the waters of the Western Caribbean during winter months.