HOUSTON -- Texas travel agents said they are thrilled with Norwegian Cruise Line's decision to base its Norwegian Star in Houston for year-round, seven-day western Caribbean sailings.

"It's great news," said Darby Trovato, Transamerica Travel, Houston. "We've been doing a lot of bookings for cruises from New Orleans, and this will be just great."

Trovato was especially pleased with the ports of call -- Cozumel and Calica, Mexico, and Roatan in the Bay Islands of Honduras -- because she said they are unusual enough to entice veteran Caribbean cruisers.

Agents said the cruises from Houston should attract Texas residents who easily can drive to the Port of Houston, which is investing $1 million to promote the NCL cruises.

There is a large Texas population base to draw from, and the convenience of Hobby Airport, a 30-minute drive from the port, is a plus, they said.

And, they added, the sailings should draw those who already have sailed from Miami or who find the Houston sailings less expensive and more convenient because air fares tend to be lower and flights generally more available to Houston.

Betty Ng of TravelNet, in Houston, said the cruises should appeal to "older people who want to save a bit of money and don't want to fly to Miami or drive to New Orleans."

William Gonzalez, of Daly Travel, Houston, said the NCL move was "big news" for Houston. "We get the [Royal Olympic's] Stella Solaris sailing from Galveston once a year, and it does really well, as do the cruises from New Orleans. I'm sure NCL will do even better," he said.

However, Marilyn Astor, Carol's Travel, Orland Park, Ill., questioned how many of her clients would choose Houston over Miami.

"People are programmed that for cruises they go to Miami, and everyone's heard from their friends that they've got to take a Caribbean cruise from Miami," she said.

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