BAYONNE, N.J. -- In a little more than a month, Royal Caribbean
Cruises will cut the ribbon on its New York cruise terminal -- in
And from the sound of things, the company plans to make its
temporary base in Bayonne a permanent outpost for Royal Caribbean
International cruises and, possibly some day, sister brand
"We're still working with what we want to do long-term," said
Craig Milan, the president of Royal Celebrity Tours, which also
controls RCCL's land operations. But, he added, "our plan is to
The company is spending $8 million to transform a warehouse into
a temporary cruise facility and to make other improvements to a
berth on the northern tip of a former military base where the
Hudson River widens to become Upper New York Bay.
On May 9, this stretch of peninsula -- which RCCL is now calling
Cape Liberty -- will become the jumping-off point for two of Royal
Caribbean International's ships, the Voyager of the Seas and the
Empress of the Seas (formerly the Nordic Empress).
"Temporary for us is five years," Milan said. "We hope that five
years from now we'll have a more permanent facility."
RCCL gave TravelWeekly.com a behind-the-scenes look at the
future terminal site. The tour began inelegantly on a bumpy road
cutting through the remnants -- warehouses and chain-link fences --
of the Military Ocean Terminal.
The Royal Caribbean terminal will use two-thirds of a
120,000-square-foot, brick warehouse on the edge of the peninsula.
As of last week, the space was an empty cavern, but Juan
Trescastro, RCCL's director of guest port services, led a tour and
pointed out where the company will install a security area, a row
of check-in desks and a lounge for suite passengers.
Shuttle buses will transport passengers from the terminal to the
ship, which will be berthed about a half-mile down the road.
A barren spot just to the east of the terminal will become a
parking lot for about 900 cars -- RCCL can add more spaces if
needed, officials said -- where cruisers can park for $15 per day.
Shuttle buses, meanwhile, will run from Newark Liberty Airport,
which is about 20 minutes away.
Part of RCCL's plans include creating additional berths so that
multiple ships will be able to dock simultaneously in Bayonne; that
plan could include bringing Celebrity vessels over to the New
Jersey side of the Hudson.
Milan said the company's preference would be for "consolidated
And the company isn't averse to leasing out future berth space
to other cruise lines that might want to give Bayonne a try.
So far, no other line has made the leap. Carnival Corp. has
pursued a move to Brooklyn, N.Y., and a spokesman for the company
said its ports' development team had "scoured the waterfront" in
New Jersey for possible alternatives to New York -- and passed on
Bayonne -- several years ago.
Officials at the New York City Economic Development Corp. (EDC),
meanwhile, are firming up their own plans for New York: Renovating
the Manhattan cruise terminal and building in Brooklyn.
EDC executive director Kate Ascher said a cruise berth could be
created in Brooklyn "during the cruise season next year." The plan
would be to use one berth in Brooklyn while renovations are ongoing
in Manhattan and then create up to two additional Brooklyn berths
on an as-needed basis.
The Manhattan overhaul will cost about $150 million ($50 million
already has been allocated for the project), with about $25 million
needed for the first Brooklyn berth.
Ascher said she hopes to have a funding agreement, which would
utilize a combination of city funds and fee increases by the cruise
lines, in place by next month.
"Many of us here look at how crowded it is on the weekend and
wished we started this five years ago," Ascher said.
But, she added, "It really has just been in the last two years
that the industry's peaked [in New York]."
Because RCCL is still using the Manhattan facilities for its
Celebrity ships, it, too, is participating in the EDC negotiations.
But, Ascher said, "we don't expect that it'll be as involved in the
planning and design work for the future terminals as the other
lines that are making long-term [commitments]."
The shape of RCCL's long-term development in Bayonne largely
rests on projects for the site that will be created by the Bayonne
Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA). The BLRA is charged with
developing the entire peninsula, which it took full control of last
"We're envisioning some really nice prestige buildings,
restaurants, hopefully a hotel," Nancy Kist, the BLRA's executive
director, said last week during the site tour. "I think with these
[harbor] views, we'll get them."
Although RCCL has a binding letter with the BLRA and has begun
developing the terminal in preparation for its May launch, the
cruise company has not signed a lease. Kist said attorneys were
still wrangling with the details, which should be firmed up
"hopefully before the first ship arrives."
Milan said Bayonne's benefits extend into costs, "mostly in the
He said the line will save on fuel by not having to make the
transit up the river to the Manhattan terminal. Milan added that
there is a "significant savings" on port fees.
Although RCCL executives declined to detail Bayonne's fee
structure, they said it was less than New York's per-guest charge,
which they said was $17.50 per passenger.
Milan called New York "one of the most expensive ports in the
To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].
Broadway Joe would like it here, too
BAYONNE, N.J. -- There is a street here called Broadway, just
like in New York. And you can see the Statue of Liberty from here,
too. But that's where most similarities with the Big Apple end.
For now, Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCCL) officials are betting
that passengers who extend their cruise vacations out of Bayonne
will want to stay in New York proper. Pre- and post-cruise hotel
stays include the W Times Square and the Waldorf-Astoria.
For those arriving early at the pier -- especially for the
Voyager of the Seas' five-day Canada/New England cruises, which
begin embarking at 4 p.m. and sail at midnight -- Royal Celebrity
Tours president Craig Milan said the line will offer shore
excursions that include a harbor cruise or perhaps a trip to the
Statue of Liberty.
Still, Bayonne travel agents said there are some good reasons
why cruisers might want to check out their city.
The locals at Courtney Ryan's Ultra Travel, for example,
recommended Cafe Bello, at 1044 Avenue C, for fine dining; Chez
Marie on East 22nd Street for coffee; and the San Vito pizzeria, at
406 Broadway, for its family atmosphere.
Area agents added that the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, which
terminates in Bayonne, will get passengers to nearby Liberty State
Park, the Newport Center Mall in Jersey City and to shops and
restaurants in Hoboken. Riders also can connect with ferries or
PATH trains headed to New York.
RCCL, meanwhile, is negotiating with two local companies to
offer ferry service to Manhattan from Cape Liberty, although Milan
said such an option probably would not be ready for the May 9
launch. -- R.T.