Written by 12:55 pm Ports

Cruise Guide: Industry rolls out global red carpet to woo cruise passengers

By Michael Coleman

Cruise ship travel continues to gain in popularity – a record 10 million North Americans are expected to step foot on a major vessel this year alone. But it’s the economic impact on local communities across the globe that is propelling the industry to new heights 

Old piers are suddenly receiving face-lifts and many new cruise ship terminals are being built in an effort to woo cruise ship passengers, and their valued tourist dollars, in ports from Antwerp to Zadar. 

Just last week, for instance, the Grand Turk Cruise Center – the Caribbean’s newest cruise facility – held its opening ceremony with government leaders from the Turks and Caicos Islands and officials from Carnival, the operator of the $42 million facility, in attendance. 

The center will host more than 130 cruise ships in 2006. It features a state-of-the-art pier that can accommodate two large Super Post Panamax vessels and a 13-acre complex that serves as a gateway to the islands. The facility features an expansive recreation area that includes an 800-foot white-sand beach, a swimming pool, cabanas, a host of retail shops and the Caribbean’s largest Margaritaville-themed bar and restaurant, owned by Jimmy Buffet. There’s even a new FM radio station on-air specifically for cruise ship passengers, offering a mix of Caribbean tunes, news and information. 

Out west, the Port of Seattle will welcome five different cruise lines through October. “This year’s cruise season is a milestone in several ways,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Patricia Davis. “We’ll see a record number of passengers and sailings, the return of all four cruise lines that called in Seattle last year, plus the return of Royal Caribbean, which had been out of the Seattle market since 2002.” 

The port’s cruise business has grown from six ships and 7,000 passenger in 1999 to a projected 200 ship calls and 740,000 passengers this year. An economic impact study conducted in 2003, when the port had less than half the current number of cruise ship calls and passengers, showed that the industry was responsible for 1,732 local jobs, $208 million in local business revenue and $5.8 million in state and local taxes. 

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, more of the same. Stockholm, Sweden, is bracing for its busiest cruise season in history. The Stockholm Cruise Network is expecting an estimated 250,000 passengers from 261 cruise ships through September 16. 

“The rising popularity of Baltic cruises is just one of the many reasons Stockholm’s cruising numbers have hit a record high,” said Christel Wiman, chief executive officer for the Ports of Stockholm. “We also have a variety of port facilities to accommodate almost any ship. But the biggest draw is the city’s natural beauty, its rich culture and history, and its endless array of activities for visitors.” 

Officials are projecting a nine percent increase in passenger activity compared to 2005. And, with 29 turnaround calls, officials expect passengers to spend care free, pre- or post-cruise days in the city enjoying a lunchtime ferry through the archipelago of 24,000 islands, shopping for fine crystal, strolling through Gamla Stan (Old Town) or visiting one of Stockholm’s museums. 

In Boston, last week, cruise ships began dropping anchor. Several ships are scheduled to make port visits including Cunard’s Queen Mary II and Queen Elizabeth II. The elegant vessels will sail into Boston for a day’s visit on July 4 and September 21, respectively. Cruiseport Boston activity has increased nearly 600 percent over the last 12 years and, according to officials, passengers will pour some $18 million into the local economy this year alone. Massport’s Black Falcon Cruise Terminal is located in South Boston’s lively seaport district and is only minutes from famous historic sites, downtown shops and restaurants. 

Earlier this month, Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. opened his state’s new $13 million cruise terminal at Maryland’s Port of Baltimore. Located next to I-95 at South Locust Point, the new facility will operate as a full-time passenger cruise terminal. More than 122,000 passengers cruised from Baltimore last year. This season, 30 cruises are scheduled to depart from the new terminal destined for Bermuda and the Caribbean. The schedule includes 28 direct-departure cruises from Baltimore and two port calls. 

In the past, temporary cruise buildings located on the Dundalk Marine Terminal were also used, at times, for cargo operations. The new facility is 2.5 miles from downtown Baltimore, 10 miles from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, 20 miles from Annapolis and 40 miles from Washington, DC. According to the Governor, the annual economic impact of the cruise industry in Maryland is $50 million. The 2005 cruise season produced more than 270 direct jobs, including ground operations, transportation, security and labor. 

Atlantic Canada is also bracing for record numbers. Major cruise lines are expected to call on more than 190 ports at five major Atlantic Canadian gateways. Officials are expecting some 550,000 passenger and crew visits. The cruise industry, in fact, is so important to the region that the Canadian government has provided close to $300,000 in funding to the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association for a two-year marketing plan aimed at increasing industry demand. 

Cruise ship visits to Atlantic Canada have increased 33 percent since 2000 and the total economic benefit to the region is estimated at more than $56 million annually. Even tiny Prince Edward Island has gotten into the act. Twenty five cruise ships will call on Charlottetown, the island’s capital, through fall 2006. 

The Historic Charlottetown Seaport recently announced a $15 million (US) waterfront development initiative that will dramatically expand its current berth. As a result, the city is forecasting a 100 percent growth in cruise ship passengers by the year 2010. 

Originating in Boston, New York and Southampton, Charlottetown-bound itineraries traditionally depart in September and October on 7- to 22-day voyages that allow passengers to witness the beauty of Prince Edward Island’s countryside set ablaze during its fall foliage season. The estimated economic impact of cruise passenger traffic in Charlottetown will be in excess of $3 million in 2006, up from $2.1 million in 2005.

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