I'm a New Yorker, so I'm busy and important and don't like to be hassled any more than I already am. Especially now that I'm schlepping two young children everywhere I go. Know what I mean?
So, in the spirit of "don't mess with me," I'm thrilled that I can hop in a cab from my apartment in Manhattan and quickly be staring at a giant cruise ship docked along the Hudson. To be exact -- depending on traffic -- I can be at the New York City Passenger Ship Terminal on Manhattan's west side in just 10 to 15 minutes.
Is that great, or what?
No flying, no long security lines, and no shelling out hundreds and hundreds of dollars for tiny seats and no lunch.
If you live in northern Jersey, you can spend a similar amount of effort getting to the Cape Liberty terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. Likewise, if you reside in Brooklyn, lower Manhattan or Staten Island, you'll be ultra close to a new cruise terminal going up in Red Hook Brooklyn, and ready for service next spring.
In the last couple of years, cruise business from U.S. ports serving as starting points for cruises has grown dramatically. Last count, there were more than 20 homeports on the U.S. mainland where you could sail to Bermuda, New England, eastern Canada, Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico and Europe.
Here's a quick list:
- Anchorage (AK)
- Baltimore (MD)
- Bayonne (NJ)
- Boston (MA)
- Charleston (NC)
- Ft. Lauderdale (FL)
- Galveston (TX)
- Houston (TX)
- Jacksonville (FL)
- Juneau (AK)
- Los Angeles (CA)
- Miami (FL)
- Mobile (AL)
- New York (NY)
- New Orleans (LA)
- Norfolk (VA)
- Philadelphia (PA)
- Port Canaveral (FL)
- San Diego (CA)
- San Francisco (CA)
- Seattle (WA)
- Tampa (FL)
- Whittier (AK)
Depending where you live, there's a good chance you can drive to the ship and be off to a number of great places without ever encountering an airport security line or a delayed flight.
In this story, let's focus on the Northeast -- you may be very surprised at just how many places you can get to on a ship.
Sailing out of Manhattan
From the piers of the New York City Passenger Ship Terminal in midtown Manhattan, just blocks from Times Square, there are tons of options. Flanked by the city's famous skyline and the Statue of Liberty, there's nothing quite like approaching (or departing from) the Big Apple by sea, it's one of the most spectacular cruising experiences in the world.
- Bahamas/Florida: All year long you can hop aboard a 7-night cruise on the Norwegian Dawn to Florida and the Bahamas. This December, the Norwegian Spirit will begin offering this itinerary from New York as well.
- Caribbean: Through year-end, the QM2 is doing a handful of 12- and 14-night sailings round-trip from New York to the Caribbean. Next winter, the Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Spirit will do 10- or 11-night sailings from New York to the Caribbean. The Carnival Legend is doing 8-night sailings through October that include calls to Tortola, St. Thomas and San Juan. In February, March, April, October and November of next year, Holland America's Noordam will be doing 10- and 11-night sailings out of the Big Apple to the islands from Tortola to St. Thomas, Dominica, Barbados, St. Martin and Puerto Rico.
- Eastern Canada/New England: Carnival Triumph is based in New York June through October for 4-, 5- and 7-night cruises to Halifax and/or Saint John in eastern Canada, while a handful of ships are using Manhattan as a base for cruises to New England and Eastern Canada this fall, including the Golden Princess, Sea Princess, Crystal Symphony, QM2, Norwegian Jewel, Seabourn Pride, Seven Seas Navigator and Silver Whisper. Some sail round-trip from New York, or between New York and Montreal or Quebec City, ports visiting on mostly 7- to 14-night sailings might include Newport, Rhode Island; Boston; Bar Harbor, Maine; Halifax, Sydney and/or Lunenberg, Nova Scotia; and Quebec.
- Bermuda: A pair of ships will sail from New York to the pink sands of British-flavored Bermuda on weeklong itineraries all summer: the Norwegian Crown and Seven Seas Navigator.
- Transatlantic: The QM2 is doing more than 20 6-night transatlantic crossings between New York and Southampton, England throughout the year and 12 and 14 nights traveling from New York to the Caribbean and back. A handful of other lines are also doing crossings from New York as they re-position between North America and Europe.
Sailing out of Bayonne, New Jersey
Last spring, New Jersey staked its own slice of the cruise market. On the site of a former US Navy base on the west side of the Upper Bay of New York Harbor, the renovated facilities were transformed into the Cape Liberty cruise port. Currently, Royal Caribbean, who designed, constructed and financed the improvements last year, is the only major cruise line using the port, along with sister line Celebrity Cruises.
Though the setting is not quite as scenic as Manhattan's Westside piers -- a web of gantry cranes from the busy ports of Newark and Elizabeth frame views of Manhattan's skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and Verrazano-Narrows and the Bayonne Bridges -- the location is supremely convenient from New Jersey's main travel arteries. Cape Liberty is just a 15-minute drive from Newark International Airport and equally as close to the NJ Turnpike, Route 78 and I-95.
- Eastern Canada/New England: Royal Caribbean will has its huge Voyager of the Seas doing 5-night Canada loops through November, visiting Halifax and Saint John. This fall, Celebrity's Constellation will do a pair of 12- and 13-night cruises from Cape Liberty to New England and Canada, with calls including Boston, Portland (Maine) and Quebec City. In July, the Enchantment of the Seas will do one 4-night and one 6-night cruise to eastern Canada.
- Caribbean: Through November, Voyager of the Seas is offering 9-night Caribbean cruises (that alternate with the 5-night Canada sailings above) that call on Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Grand Bahama Island and Labadee, Haiti. The Constellation is doing two 12-night cruises to the Caribbean, with stops at St. Martin, St. Thomas and San Juan.
- Bermuda: Celebrity has positioned the Zenith at Cape Liberty all summer to do 7-night Bermuda cruises.
Sailing out of Brooklyn
In the spirit of relieving congestion at the Manhattan terminals, the newest cruise-hub-to-be is Brooklyn, New York. A new cruise terminal is being built in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood, right across the river from lower Manhattan, and operations start next spring.
- Transatlantic: Starting next spring, for her 20+ transatlantic sailings, Cunard's QM2 will dock at the new terminal, while the QE2 will also use the pier during her occasional calls to New York. We'll miss the grand sight of these Queens cruising up the Hudson, as their ancestors have for years; but if you reside in Staten Island or southern Brooklyn, you're in for a new treat.
- Caribbean: Princess Cruises' Crown Princess also will call Brooklyn home next summer on 9-night Caribbean cruises, with calls including Grand Turk, Jamaica and Grand Cayman.
Sailing out of Philadelphia
A few hours south, one of America's most historic cities has emerged as a cruise port as well. The city's famous sites, from the Liberty Bell to Christ Church and Independence Hall, are just a short taxi ride from the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal, which has been built on the site of the former Philadelphia Naval Base, one of the nation's oldest naval facilities.
- Bermuda: Celebrity's Horizon cruises to Bermuda from Philly between July and late October on 7-night sailings, while the Norwegian Crown sails to Bermuda for a week throughout May, late September and October.
- Eastern Canada/New England: Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas is doing 7-night Canada and New England cruises in July and August that call on Martha's Vineyard, Portland and Bar Harbor (Maine), and Halifax.
Sailing out of Boston
Ships dock at Boston's Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, just a few miles away from the heart of the city, where famous historical sights include the battleship U.S.S. Constitution, Paul Revere House, Faneuil Hall Marketplace and many exceedingly charming Victorian-era neighborhoods.
- Bermuda & Caribbean: The Norwegian Majesty is doing the 7-night Bermuda run all summer. In September and October, Royal Caribbean's new Jewel of the Seas is offering a series of 10-night sailings to the Bermuda and Caribbean, visiting Labadee, San Juan, St. Martin and King's Wharf Bermuda.
- Eastern Canada/New England: Holland America's Maasdam is offering 7-night New England/Canada cruises between Boston and Montreal from mid May thru October, calling on Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Bar Harbor, while Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas is also doing 7-nighters round-trip out of Boston in September and October to Martha's Vineyard, Halifax and other ports in the region. In addition to her cruises out of New York, the Silver Whisper is doing one 9-night cruise from Boston to Montreal, calling on Bar Harbor, Saint John, Sydney, Halifax, Corner Brook (Newfoundland) and Quebec City.
Sailing out of Norfolk, Virginia
Few cruise ports are within walking distance of so many historical sites as you'll find from Norfolk, Virginia. Ships dock at Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, just steps from the heart of the city and attractions like the battleship USS Wisconsin, the Tugboat Museum, MacArthur Memorial, and the 18th-century Fort Norwalk.
- Bermuda: Celebrity's Horizon sails 7-night cruises to Bermuda from Norfolk between late April and mid June. The Seven Seas Navigator is offering a handful of 7-night Bermuda cruises that include a visit to New York City before heading out to the islands.
- Caribbean & the Bahamas: Holland America's Maasdam is doing 10- and 11-night Caribbean cruises round-trip from Norfolk in late October, November and December with calls including St. Thomas, Antigua, Half Moon Cay, St. Martin and San Juan. In June and October, the Carnival Triumph is doing a pair each of 6-night Bahamas sailings and 2-night cruises to nowhere.
Sailing out of Baltimore, Maryland
Cruise ships departing from the Port of Baltimore's Seagirt Marine Terminal, are about 7 miles from the Inner Harbor, where many of the best attractions are located. From Inner Harbor, tour the Civil-war era USS Constellation, the Baltimore Maritime Museum where four historic vessels are open for touring, the National Aquarium, and the star-shaped Fort McHenry, where back in 1814 Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the U.S. national anthem.
- Caribbean & the Bahamas: All summer, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas is doing an alternating schedule of 5-night Bermuda and 9-night Caribbean trips from Baltimore through November. The Caribbean cruises call on Grand Bahama Island, Cococay (Bahamas), Key West, Cozumel and Port Canaveral, for easy access to the Orlando theme parks.
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