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.
A former cargo pier
now welcomes cruise ships
to Brooklyn, N.Y.
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
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
* 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.
* 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.
ON THE HORIZON
know that a new ship means more activities, more luxurious cabins and more modern technology. Here are some of the newest vessels afloat.The Carnival Freedom,
Carnival Cruise Lines’ latest and greatest, was unveiled in Italy on March 4. The ship roams the Mediterranean during the summer and the Caribbean during the winter. With 1,487 cabins, the vessel features a 270-square-foot LED screen by the pool for watching movies, and also offers wireless Internet and cell phone service. (866) 721-3225; www.carnival.com
In April, Royal Caribbean christened the Liberty of the Seas,
which is tied for first place (with its sister, Freedom of the Seas
) in the list of the world’s largest ships. With a capacity of 3,634 passengers, the Liberty offers special programs for wellness-oriented cruisers, as well as a boxing ring, a surfing simulator, a water park, an ice-skating rink and a climbing wall. It calls Miami its home and sails around the Caribbean. The third ship of that size will be Independence of the Seas,
to debut in May 2008. (800) 345-7225; www.royalincentives.comDisney Cruise Line
will double the size of its fleet by adding two 122,000-ton, 1,250-stateroom ocean liners in 2011 and 2012. The new ships, modern interpretations of classic 1930s ocean liners, will be two decks taller than Disney’s two existing ships. (321) 939-7221; disneymeetings.disney.go.com
The Half Moone Cruise and
Norfolk has been a major up-and-comer
in the cruising scene; to accommodate all the demand, a $36
million, 80,000-square-foot terminal opened earlier this spring,
Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the
Seas makes five- and seven-day Bermuda trips in spring and
summer. Also, Carnival Victory stops in at Norfolk twice
per year, each time going to the Bahamas for six nights and sailing
to nowhere for two. As a bonus, for pre- and postcruise confabs,
the terminal offers 33,300 square feet of meeting and event
Bayport Cruise Terminal/Port of
Houston and Galveston, Texas
In the Houston area, the Barbours Cut
Cruise Terminal is home to the Norwegian Dream, which
sails for seven days at a time around the “Texaribbean.” The
terminal is about a 30-minute drive from downtown. This year, the
$81 million, 96,000-square-foot Bayport Cruise Terminal will
Not far outside of Houston, Galveston
has been making waves since 2000 as an up-and-coming cruise port,
partly because it’s a historic destination in itself. The city is
home to ships from Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines,
Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean and is an ideal embarkation
point to hit the Caribbean for four to seven nights.
CruisePhilly, created as a
Navy dockyard, is poised
to build more berths.
Philadelphia’s port began as a Navy
dockyard. When the Navy closed the base in 1996, the Delaware River
Port Authority redeveloped the area as a cruise port with two
berths. To date, $15 million has been spent to give travelers a
pleasant experience. There’s been talk of expanding the terminal
and building more berths.
The port will send off 19 ships this
year, mostly on seven-day trips to Bermuda, though a few will
travel up to Canada. A relatively light passenger load can be a
good thing, as cruisers can enjoy their trips without having to
face the crowds.
The Norwegian Crown makes
seven-day voyages to Bermuda, as does Royal Caribbean’s Empress
of the Seas.
Port of Seattle
Every year, nearly 200 ships pull into
the Port of Seattle. Those ships travel north, to Alaska, Canada
and to visit various glaciers. A few current examples:
* The Norwegian
Pearl cruises north to Glacier Bay and Sawyer Glacier in
Mercury offers three- and four-night cruises in the fall
to Victoria and Nanaimo, B.C., or Vancouver and Nanaimo.
* Princess, Holland
America and Royal Caribbean also sail out of Seattle.
This year, Boston’s port will receive calls from 101 ships from
11 cruise lines, with itineraries that range from the Canadian
coastline to Europe. Cruise lines with home-ported ships in Boston
include Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Line.
The pier is just two miles from downtown.
Last fall, the Massachusetts Port
Authority issued a request for expressions of interest to
developers and cruise lines for the construction of a new terminal,
with the goal of opening it by 2009.
the stately Norwegian Majesty.
The Norwegian Majesty calls
this genteel Southern city its home. Every week from September to
April, the ship departs for the Caribbean (in winter) or for
Bermuda (in warmer months). The schedule includes a few four- and
five-day trips to Bermuda in October. Also, the Carnival
Victory makes several five-day trips to the Bahamas in spring
Cape Liberty Cruise Port
The terminal, just 15 minutes from
Newark Liberty International Airport, opened in 2004 to accommodate
the largest of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships. That’s why it’s home
to R.C.’s 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas, which sails
to Bermuda and the Caribbean. The cruise line’s luxury partner,
Celebrity Cruises, offers trips to Bermuda, as well.
The Golden Princess
will soon set sail
from the Port of
Port of San Francisco
San Francisco has the coveted position
of being close enough to Canada, Hawaii and Mexico to be able to
launch ships toward all three. Celebrity Cruises and Princess
Cruises will begin itineraries from the Golden Gate City in