MIAMI -- Royal Caribbean Cruises will construct and operate a new cruise port in Bayonne, a New Jersey town directly across the river from New York City.

The new cruise facility, which will be on a portion of a 430-acre man-made peninsula that sticks out into the New York Bay, will serve as a seasonal homeport to two Royal Caribbean ships, the 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas and the 2,020-passenger Nordic Empress.

To get the site ready for 2004 cruising, Royal Caribbean has about four months to convert a warehouse on the site, create a few new structures, contract with stevedoring and port agency companies and nail down the logistics.

But RCCL's executive vice president, Adam Goldstein, said it was necessary for Royal Caribbean to add berths beyond the traditional New York cruise space at the Manhattan Passenger Ship Terminal.

"We faced some uncertainty on whether the Voyager of the Seas could be accommodated on all its turnaround days in Manhattan," Goldstein told TravelWeekly.com. "Because of that uncertainty we started talking to contacts in the marketplace."

RCCL's Celebrity ships will continue to operate from the Manhattan terminal.

Why Bayonne, you ask? Well, for one thing, it's easy to get to from the New Jersey Turnpike, Newark Liberty International Airport and there's local transportation from New York and Jersey City and Hoboken, N.J.

Royal Caribbean is also looking into finding a company to provide ferry service from the Bayonne pier to Manhattan. The peninsula, a former military base, is being redeveloped with residential, office and park space. And, finally, no dredging need be done to accommodate either vessel.

Proposals by Carnival Corp., meanwhile, to build a cruise terminal in Brooklyn, N.Y., (directly across the harbor from Bayonne) to house its brands' New York-departing cruise ships, including the massive Queen Mary 2, is apparently still being mulled over by New York officials and the city's Economic Development Corp.

A Carnival spokeswoman said the plans were "status quo," but she affirmed the company is "still very much interested in it."

To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].

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