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New York City's Ship Has Come In: Cruises To The Caribbean
By Gene Sloan
July 11, 2003
It's full steam ahead for Caribbean cruises from New York City.
Royal Caribbean announced this month that it would follow Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival into the blossoming market, which has taken off since May.
"This is all about convenience," says Sharon Dodd, editor in chief of Cruise Critic, an online newsletter. "They're trying to reach out to customers who no longer want to deal with the hassles of getting on an airplane down to Miami."
New York long has been a hub for summer cruises to Bermuda, as well as trips up the New England coast. But the Caribbean was always considered just a little too far for ships from New York.
The Sept. 11 attacks made cruise executives re-examine that mind- set. "After 9/11, they saw what happens when the planes don't fly and they can't get their passengers to the ships," Dodd says.
After the attacks, cruise lines began positioning more ships outside Florida, in such easy-to-reach-by-car cities as New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, Baltimore and Galveston, Texas -- a "home porting" trend that had started before the attacks. But nowhere has the ramp-up been as major as in New York this summer.
Carnival will have 50 departures from New York City, up from 12 last year. Norwegian has more than doubled its capacity there.
Heading to the Caribbean from New York:
* Carnival. The 2,124-passenger Legend made its debut May 13 with eight-night voyages to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Tortola. The cruises continue through Oct.12. Information: 800-227-6482 or www.carnival.com.
* Norwegian. The 2,224-passenger Dawn arrived May 18 for seven- night trips to Florida and the Bahamas. The cruises will continue year-round. Information: 800-327-7030 or www.ncl.com.
* Royal Caribbean. The 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas arrives next May for nine-night trips that include stops in Jamaica, Grand Cayman and the Bahamas. The trips continue through October. Information: 800-327-6700 or www.royalcaribbean.com.
All three lines are having to allow for the long distance between New York and the Caribbean. Norwegian chose the Dawn because it can travel about 25% faster than most cruise ships. Still, the ship won't be able to make the most popular islands, such as St. Thomas and St. Martin.
Carnival senior vice president Vicki Freed says her line decided to offer an eight-night cruise instead of the standard seven- nighter to give its ship time to reach more Caribbean ports than the Dawn, which counts two Florida stops among its port calls. "That extra day definitely buys you better ports," she says.
So far, she adds, customers haven't objected to leaving on odd days of the week -- a side effect of the eight-day rotation.
Freed says the cruises are selling well in part because they're accessible by car and thus cheaper as vacations than cruises leaving from ports that require customers to buy an airplane ticket.
Carnival is adding another ship to New York in July, when the 2,124-passenger Pride begins seven-night trips to Bermuda. Since 1999, the line has offered four-, five- and seven-day trips to New England on the Carnival Victory.
Dodd says New York is a particularly important market for Carnival and other lines because the area is second only to Florida as a source of repeat passengers.
The new ships arriving in the Big Apple for Caribbean cruises are among the newest and snazziest in their fleets, she adds -- a sign of just how important the city has become to their owners' strategies. "It used to be the older ships, but now it's the state- of-the-art ships offering cruises out of the city."