The recent news that starting in 2016, cruise lines would no longer be able to offer cruises to nowhere, due to changes in the enforcement of decades-old immigration laws, made me nostalgic for the dozens of cruises to nowhere that shaped my understanding of the cruise industry.
Like many journalists and travel agents, cruises to nowhere were my first introduction to cruising, on the dozens of new ships that entered service over the years that I covered the cruise industry.
My first one was a February 2006 overnight from New York City on Holland America Line’s brand-new Noordam. That would be followed over the next few months in what seemed like rapid succession by the newly minted world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas from Bayonne, N.J., and Princess Cruises’ Crown Princess out of Brooklyn.
Of course, these cruises are far from the norm. The cruise line president isn't normally playing ping-pong while the CEO wipes out on the FlowRider surfing simulator. And as I’d sadly learn later, the bars on cruise ships are not always open and the specialty restaurants aren't free.
But still, those one- and two-day sailings introduced me to what cruising was and without them, it would have been almost impossible to have experienced the number of ships I did, and to then be able to write about them.
These cruises were also where I first met travel agents, many of the top cruise sellers in the business. Designed primarily to showcase the ship to them, it was on cruises to nowhere that travel agents explained the industry to me, what made each ship distinct, and how they would sell it to their clients.
So here’s hoping the enforcement won’t mean that new industry reporters and travel agents entering the business now will be denied the cruise-to-nowhere experience from the U.S.; for cruises that don’t go anywhere, they leave a pretty lasting impact.