Familiar Waters

These new and growing ports are comfortably close to home

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
www.nycruiseterminal.com

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
www.portno.com/pno_pages/
cargo_facilities_julia.htm

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.

ON THE HORIZON
Experienced cruisers 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.com

Disney 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 Celebration Center
Norfolk, Va.
www.halfmoone.org
www.cruisenorfolk.org

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, right downtown.

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 space.

Bayport Cruise Terminal/Port of Galveston
Houston and Galveston, Texas
www.portofhouston.com/
cruiseinfo/bayportcruise.html

www.galvestoncruises.com

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 replace it.

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.

CruisePhily

 

CruisePhilly, created as a
Navy dockyard, is poised
to build more berths.

CruisePhilly
Philadelphia
www.cruisephilly.org

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
www.portseattle.org/seaport/cruise

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 summer.

* Celebrity’s 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.

Cruiseport Boston
www.massport.com/ports/cruis.html

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 Norwegian Majesty

 

PortCharleston welcomes
the stately Norwegian Majesty.

PortCharleston
Charleston, S.C.
www.port-of-charleston.com/
Cruises/cruises.asp

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 and fall.

Cape Liberty Cruise Port
Bayonne, N.J.
www.bayonnenj.org/royal.htm

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

 

The Golden Princess
will soon set sail
from the Port of
San Francisco.

Port of San Francisco
www.sfport.com

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 2008.