NEW YORK -- Back in the 1970s, when New York was still a leading
cruise port, Jacqueline Wolfer set sail from the Big Apple to the
Bahamas on Home Line's Oceanic.
"And it was wonderful," said Wolfer, now the owner of
International Cruises and Tours Fifth Avenue here. "People dressed
up; women were in gowns and furs."
Agents here say they've long championed the return of cruises
from New York to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. And now, the
cruises back: For 2003, Norwegian Cruise Line is offering seven-day
cruises to the Bahamas and Florida on the Norwegian Dawn, and
Carnival Cruise Lines is selling eight-day cruises to the
"It's been long-awaited and much-needed," said Wolfer. "People
want to go out of New York. They don't want to fly."
"It's the smart thing to do; there's a huge market here," agreed
Greg DeClemente, executive director of Valerie Wilson Travel. "It
gives folks another opportunity to experience a cruise. The
convenience is wonderful."
For years, New York was an active transatlantic cruise port, and
mid-century ocean liners from Holland America, Home Lines,
Norwegian America Lines, Cunard and Italian Line, among others,
also sailed eight- to 18-day cruises to the Bahamas and the
But by the early 1970s, the transatlantic market had faded,
air/sea programs were expanding and Miami was fast becoming the
focal point of the industry.
According to an analysis prepared for Travel Weekly in 1974, the
number of cruise ship departures from New York fell from 433 in
1970 to 389 in 1973. Cruise departures from Florida, meanwhile,
shot up to 805 from 589 in the same time period.
By the mid-1980s, the majority of New York cruises no longer
sailed to places like Barbados and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands,
but plied shorter routes to Canada and Bermuda, as they continue to
DeClemente said the new cruises evoked for him a feeling of
"It brings back a little of the romance," he said. "In the West
Side passenger terminal, there's a great picture of about a dozen
cruise ships lined up one after the other."
Nostalgia aside, the longer itineraries offered from New York
are more examples of the cruise lines' recent push to offer
additional U.S. embarkations with a lot of drive-market appeal.
Both Carnival and NCL have touted home-market cruising; NCL is
offering departures from 11 North American cities; Carnival is
Cruise line officials said they were thrilled by the response
"We've had a lot of e-mails and phone calls saying this is the
best thing we've ever done," said Andrew Stuart, NCL senior vice
president of sales and marketing.
NCL has been operating cruises to the Bahamas on the Norwegian
Sea for the past two years. But the speed of the Norwegian Dawn
will enable the line to make twice as many port calls, making a New
York berth an "irresistible" choice, Stuart said.
Joan DiPietro, Carnival's vice president of strategic marketing,
said New York agents want more variety in their close-to-home
"To be able to provide a different alternative is a fabulous
opportunity," she said. Plus, she added, the [Carnival] Legend "is
brand-new, and New Yorkers like what's new and cutting edge."
The Legend will offer eight-day cruises, calling in San Juan;
St. Thomas/St. John; and Tortola/Virgin Gorda, British Virgin
The Norwegian Dawn will make calls in Nassau and the line's
private island in the Bahamas, plus Miami and Port Canaveral, Fla.
Both ships will operate from New York between May and October.