NEW YORK -- Florida, and Miami, in particular, has always been the
shining star among cruise ports. In 2002, some other Southern ports
will become more prominent players in the cruise market.
Carnival Cruise Lines has been leading the way by tapping
Mobile, Ala., and New Orleans as departure points for spring
voyages. The line's 1,452-passenger Holiday will start a series of
five- and six-day western Caribbean cruises from Mobile in March.
Two-night cruises to nowhere are on the agenda, too. Carnival also
plans to homeport two vessels in New Orleans next year.
Following its Mobile stint, the Holiday will move to New Orleans
for a series of year-round Caribbean cruises. The new program of
four-, five-, 10- and 11-day voyages will start April 6. The
Crescent City also will be home to the 2,976-passenger Conquest
when it debuts next December.
This represents a significant capacity increase compared with
Carnival's current New Orleans-based ship, the 2,052-passenger
Inspiration. When the Conquest debuts, the Inspiration will move
from its New Orleans home to Tampa for western Caribbean sailings.
However, one of its ports of call will be the Crescent City.
Royal Caribbean has its eye on New Orleans, as well. From Nov. 2
through April 12, 2003, the line's 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the
Seas will sail from the port. This will more than triple the number
of cruises Royal Caribbean will make from New Orleans from seven
this winter to 25 in the 2002-2003 season. The timing is ideal for
the port, which completed a $7 million expansion of its Julia
Street Cruise Terminal this summer.
Charleston, S.C., also will receive an influx of visitors as
part of a new Celebrity itinerary. The 12-day cruise aboard the
1,870-passenger Galaxy will depart from Baltimore and visit
Charleston, before heading to the western Caribbean. The Galaxy is
scheduled to sail from Baltimore for a series of 11- and 12-day
cruises from March 25 to Nov. 21.
Many small-ship operators routinely visit Southern ports on
their itineraries and will continue to do so in 2002. Clipper
Cruise Line offers an eight-day voyage called Antebellum South
Along the Intracoastal Waterway. From March through December, the
Nantucket Clipper will visit Jacksonville, Fla.; Cumberland, Jekyll
and St. Simons islands and Savannah, Ga., and Beaufort and
American Canadian Caribbean Line offers a similar itinerary
called Colonial Intracoastal Waterway aboard the Niagara Prince in
March. The line also has longer itineraries that run between
Florida and Rhode Island with plenty of Southern ports in
RiverBarge Excursion Lines sails such itineraries as Delta South
and Cajun & Creoles aboard its River Explorer.