Cruise port welcoming more and larger vessels

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In business terms, cruising to Bermuda is an evolving numbers game, with the growing capacity of new ships butting up against the islands caps on daily and annual visitors.

The visitor cap is based on our ability to provide a quality experience for air and cruise visitors, said Larry Jacobs, transportation coordinator for the Bermuda Ministry of Transport.

In 2003, there were approximately 225,000 cruise visitors, with the daily peak being approximately 7,800. But we believe our infrastructure can accommodate an increased number.

Once dominated by fairly small ships in the 650- to 1,450-passenger range, the Bermuda market is now opening up to some of the largest vessels afloat. Plans may add even more flexibility to cruise lines deployment decisions.

In 2005, the 500-pound gorilla in the Bermuda market will be Royal Caribbeans 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas, which will sail five-day itineraries roundtrip from Royal Caribbeans new Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J., May 15 through Nov. 13. The cruises will alternate with nine-day western Caribbean sailings.

With Voyager in place, the annual cap on cruise visitors will be increased and the peak daily number will jump to approximately 8,800.

Two new high-speed ferries recently have doubled the public transportation available between Kings Wharf (at the west ends Royal Naval Dockyard), the east end port of St. Georges, and the capital city of Hamilton.

Royal Caribbean also plans to offer Bermuda cruises aboard the 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas, sailing five days roundtrip from Baltimore from May 22 through Nov. 6, also alternating with nine-day western Caribbean cruises.

Meanwhile, the new 2,100-passenger Jewel of the Seas will offer five 10-day Bermuda/southern Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Boston in September and October 2005, with two days at Kings Wharf and stops at Tortola, St. Maarten and Labadee (Royal Caribbeans private Haitian peninsula).

The only true luxury ship sailing Bermuda, Radissons 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator, will offer seven days roundtrip from New York on May 18 and 25, June 1 and 8, and August 10, 17, 24 and 31. Weeklong roundtrips from Norfolk, Va., pepper the mix on May 24 and 31, June 7 and Aug. 16, 23, and 30.

The two other lines visiting Bermuda in 05 are sticking to older, midsize vessels.

For the umpteenth year, Celebrity Cruises will offer Bermuda on the twin 1,354-passenger Horizon and Zenith, built in 1990 and 1992, respectively.

The Horizon will sail six-, seven- and eight-day itineraries roundtrip from Norfolk from late April through June, followed by seven days roundtrip from Philadelphia July 2 to Oct. 22. The Zenith will sail weekly seven days roundtrip from New Jerseys Cape Liberty dock, April 23 through Oct. 15.

Norwegian Cruise Lines 1,460-passenger, Norwegian Majesty (built in 1992) will offer seven days roundtrip from Boston weekly, May 1 through Oct. 23. The 1,078-passenger Norwegian Crown (built in 1988) will sail seven-day roundtrips from Philadelphia April 24, May 1 and 8; Sept. 25; and Oct. 2, 9, and 16 plus a single six-dayer on May 15. From May 22 through Sept. 18, itll offer the same itinerary weekly from New York.

According to Jacobs, the smaller, older cruise ships serving Bermuda will most likely be replaced within five years by larger ships.

A study of the costs and benefits of expanding the islands existing ports will soon be presented to the Bermuda government and will include provisions to accommodate at least one so-called Panamax ship at each port.

Panamax ships, the largest vessels that can transit the Panama Canal, represent a large portion of cruise lines most up-to-date vessels.

In addition to the ships visiting Bermuda regularly, a number will call in 2005 as part of transatlantic runs and other longer cruises: Celebritys Millennium (May 1 and Nov. 6), Crystals Serenity (Nov. 16), Princess Grand Princess (April 16 and Nov. 10), Radissons Seven Seas Mariner (April 22) and Seven Seas Voyager (April 9), and Royal Caribbeans Legend of the Seas (April 10).

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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