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What is it about New York? Is it the rude cab drivers? The stale street vendor pretzels? The throngs squeezing through Time's Square? Whatever the appeal, it's undeniable and it's universal. Cruise lines are falling all over each other to get a slice of the big apple. While seasonal New England and Canada cruises have been offered for years during the fall by many lines, the news is how many ships are cruising to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Florida and Bermuda from the New York region. Ships are based at the Westside piers in Manhattan, as well as across the river at Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ and in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which begins operations in spring.

Norwegian Cruise Line (tel. 800//327-7030; www.ncl.com): The line now has two ships, the Norwegian Dawn and Spirit, based year-round in Manhattan. Through May of 2006, the Dawn and Spirit are doing 10- and 11-night sailings from New York to the Caribbean. The Spirit's 10 nighters are calling at St. Thomas, Antigua, Barbados, St. Maarten and Tortola, while the 11 nighters are visiting St. Thomas, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Dominica and Tortola. The Dawn's 10 nighters are calling at St. Thomas, Tortola, Puerto Rico and Great Stirrup Cay, while the 11 nighters stop at Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Honduras, Belize, Cozumel and Great Stirrup Cay.

Starting in May and running through September, the Spirit will rotate a 6-night Bahamas and Florida itinerary with an 8-night Bermuda and eastern Caribbean itinerary. Ports of call on the 6-nighter include Port Canaveral (Orlando)and Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. Stops on the 8-night itinerary include St. Thomas, Tortola, and Bermuda. A funky new 7-night itinerary for the Dawn sails round-trip from Manhattan between May and August, and includes a day in Bermuda, a day at NCL's private island, Great Stirrup Cay, and an overnight in Nassau.

Starting mid October through late November, the Dawn will sail a new 7-night itinerary calling on Port Canaveral/Orlando; and three ports in the Bahamas: Grand Bahama (replacing Miami), Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau. In October, the Spirit will resume its wintertime schedule of 10- and 11-night Caribbean routes, which the Dawn will also resume in December.

From June through October next year, the Norwegian Crown will do the 7-night Bermuda run round-trip out of New York.

MSC Cruises (tel. 800/666-9333; www.msccruises.com): Looking forward, beginning in April, 2007, the Italian-owned MSC Cruises will position the MSC Lirica year-round in the Big Apple, offering Caribbean and Bermuda routes, as well as cruises to New England and Canada.

Holland America (tel. 800/426-0327; www.hollandamerica.com): In February, March, April, October and November of 2006, New York will be the homeport for Holland America's brand-new Noordam, for thirteen 10- and 11-night Caribbean sailings. Calls may include Tortola, St. Thomas, Dominica, Barbados, St. Martin, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk, renowned for its spectacular diving, snorkeling and fishing. Most itineraries also visit Holland America's private island in the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay, where you can horseback ride along the beach and snorkel with the stingrays.

Princess Cruises (tel. 800/774-6237; www.princess.com): The new Crown Princess will call Brooklyn home next summer on 9-night Caribbean cruises between June and October, offering two main itineraries. One calls on Grand Turk, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Port Canaveral; the other, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Grand Turk.

Royal Caribbean (tel. 800/327-6700; www.royalcaribbean.com): Between May and October, Explorer of the Seas is offering 9-night Caribbean cruises that alternate with 5-night Bermuda sailings. The Caribbean route calls on St. Thomas, St Martin, Puerto Rico, and Labadee, the line's private beach in Haiti.

Celebrity Cruises (tel. 800/437-3111; www.celebritycruises.com): The Constellation is doing two 12-night cruises to the Caribbean in March and April, with stops in Charleston, Grand Bahama, Nassau, St. Martin, St. Thomas and San Juan. In October and November, the ship is doing a pair of 11-night Caribbean sailings that call on Key West, Cozumel, Costa Maya, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Labadee.

The Zenith cruises out of NYC to Bermuda on 7-nighters between April and October.

Carnival Cruise Lines (tel. 800/327-9501; www.carnival.com): The Carnival Legend is doing 8-night sailings between April and October that call on three ports: Tortola, St. Thomas and San Juan.

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