Voyager of the Seas
Nordic Empress (Wired NY photo)
Cruise line to open Bayonne terminal
Plan would add more than 200 jobs to city
Saturday, December 20, 2003
BY JOSEPH R. PERONE
What was once a launching point for Army tanks bound for battles overseas is set to get a makeover for the tank-top crowd.
Royal Caribbean Cruises yesterday announced plans to establish what is believed to be the first passenger cruise terminal in modern times on the Hudson County waterfront.
The cruise operator will take over part of the former Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal, which was used during the Persian Gulf War to load tanks, trucks and military cargo onto container ships bound for Saudi Arabia.
The Miami-based cruise line's plan would add more than 200 jobs to a city devastated by the loss of 300 workers when the military base closed in 1999. Royal Caribbean will hire cargo handlers, security, terminal operations and guest services personnel by the time the cruise port opens next May, according to Jaye Hilton, a spokeswoman for the cruise line.
The company expects to handle 110,000 passengers out of Bayonne next spring and summer, she said.
"It is just off the Turnpike with ample parking, and our passengers will have fabulous views of the Statue of Liberty when they depart," Hilton said.
The Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority, which owns the property, said the cruise terminal is part of a plan to redevelop the former base and give a major boost to the city of Bayonne.
"Our agreement with Royal Caribbean will help Bayonne move forward in achieving the goal of replacing jobs lost as a result of the closure of the base," said Maria Karczewski, a BLRA commissioner and member of the Bayonne City Council.
The former military base occupied a 430-acre peninsula that extends two miles into Upper New York Bay.
Royal Caribbean will take over a portion of the peninsula as the homeport for two ships, including the Voyager of the Seas, a 3,114-passenger vessel that is one of the world's largest cruise ships.
Voyager, now based in Miami, will sail to Canada as well as Haiti, Grand Cayman Island, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Another ship, Nordic Empress, now based in Manhattan, will sail from New Jersey to Bermuda.
The cruise operator said it will use existing structures but will eventually build a new cruise terminal and supporting facilities in Bayonne. The company declined to say how much the renovation will cost or how many acres of the peninsula it will occupy.
The facility is "an ideal location, both for our expanded operations and the convenience of our guests," according to Adam Goldstein, executive vice president of Royal Caribbean, which operates a fleet of 27 ships under the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises brands.
Until it closed, the terminal had been used for every U.S. military operation since World War II, including missions to Somalia and Haiti during the 1990s. At its peak, the base employed 3,000 Army personnel and civilians and handled more than 1 million tons of cargo.
At one time, Bayonne officials had hoped to use the site as the port for the USS New Jersey, but the battleship instead became a floating museum along the Delaware River near the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
The cruise terminal will be part of the man-made Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, a piece of waterfront property. The former military base is one of the largest tracts of undeveloped land in the metropolitan area.
Voyager of the Seas
Nordic Empress (Wired NY photo)
Which ship will use it?
Lol no, I'd like to go on it one day. Sometimes ships age gracefully. I'd especially like to be in its dining room, which has glass walls facing the wake of the ship.
Looks new from the outside, have you sailed on the ship? Is it old and worn on the inside?The Nordic Empress needs to be sunk, its soooo old.
It's 13 years old.
I don't think modern cruise ships can age gracefully. Their beauty is on board. From the outside, they're fat sea-buses.
Nice boost for Bayonne.
This great for not just Bayonne, but Jersey City and all the rest of Hudson County. Bayonne use to be a major resort town about a little over 100years ago and always had a big a maritime history and has always been a maritime city and this just adds to that history. This will be great for Jersey City as well because it will bring more tourisits into the area and generate alot more revenue. It'll also be easy to get from Downtown JC and the rest of the city by connections through the Light Rail, PATH, and buses. The 34th st Light Rail Station in Bayonne is right at the entrance at the Peninsula( the former Military Ocean Terminal) where the terminal will be. The hotels in Downtown JC will also benefit from the tourism as well as the restaurants and local businesses. This couldn't come at a better time either with more business moving into Hudson County and more hotels on tap to be built in JC as well. This is a great treat because New Jersey residents wont have to go through the hasel of taking a cab or ferry to the piers on the West Side. Also the terminal should open this coming May or June. This is a great shot in the arm for Hudson County and Northern New Jersey. See New York, there is life on the other side of the Hudson now this time more than ever!!
December 29, 2003
Cruise Ships Drop Anchor, and Bayonne Gains Favor Over West Side
By CHARLES V. BAGLI
Cruise ship companies, whose mammoth boats have been pulling in and out of New York Harbor in ever-increasing numbers, have long complained about the city's West Side piers, which they say present a crumbling, unappealing and highly congested portal to Manhattan.
The depth of the problem emerged just before Christmas, when Royal Caribbean International announced that it would move the Nordic Empress and one of the world's largest cruise ships, the 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas, to Bayonne. That New Jersey city may not have the glamour of Manhattan, company executives said, but it would not have all the problems, either.
New York City officials were caught flat-footed. For nearly a year, they had been mulling over a $100 million proposal from the Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise operator in the world, to build a satellite passenger terminal in Brooklyn, and conducting yet another in a long line of waterfront studies. Officials knew that the West Side passenger ship terminal — five berths on three piers between 48th and 52nd Streets — needed a costly upgrade. But they did not think anyone in one the city's fastest-growing industries would actually build a new berth in Bayonne.
"I think it took everybody by surprise," said Kate Ascher, an executive vice president of the city's Economic Development Corporation. "We didn't know anything about this diversion. We have been working with them and others on a redevelopment plan."
The Nordic Empress, which has used Manhattan as its seasonal home port, will move about 10 miles south to Bayonne in the spring, joining the Voyager, which will be new to the harbor.
Ms. Ascher said the city hoped to release the results of the latest study next month. It also hopes to unveil plans for interim improvements to the West Side terminal, like elevators and escalators, and for a long-term effort to expand the city's capacity to handle cruise ships. She said the city was also exploring plans to build a new terminal at Pier 7 in Brooklyn.
"We are moving as fast as we can," Ms. Ascher said. "The industry has grown tremendously in the past three years, and we're running to catch up."
Industry executives said they had heard that before and expressed pessimism over the city's ability to finance the projects and get the work done quickly.
John Tercek, vice president for commercial development at Royal Caribbean Cruises, played down the decision to move the Voyager to Bayonne next spring, saying his company was committed to the New York market. But he acknowledged that the company had already transferred another ship, the 1,500-passenger Horizon, to Philadelphia.
"That ship left the marketplace because it's too congested in New York," he said. "It's not our goal to play off New York versus New Jersey. Our goal is to deliver the best possible customer service and experience. The West Side terminals do not deliver the best customer experience."
The company's move raises the question of whether New York can continue to capture its share of a growing industry. There is no question that the once-somnolent cruise industry is booming, despite war and shipboard viruses. The number of passengers embarking from North American ports has risen by 47 percent since 1998 to about eight million this year, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. The growth was even more spectacular in New York, where the number of passengers jumped 157.2 percent during the same period, to about 450,000 this year.
With cruise ship passengers flying into New York, spending a few days in hotels, eating in restaurants and seeing Broadway shows, the industry says it has an impact of $800 million a year on the city's economy.
As a result, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Oceania, Cunard and Holland America have been building bigger and faster ships to get to the Caribbean.
But the city's West Side passenger terminals, last renovated in 1970, are frayed and poorly equipped to handle either the number or size of the ships. When the $800 million Queen Mary 2 arrives in New York for the first time next spring, the 1,132-foot ocean liner will extend 132 feet beyond the length of the piers into the shipping channel.
On any weekend day during the cruise season — from May to October — up to 10,000 passengers may be debarking and embarking at the same time, creating a traffic nightmare outside the spare and gloomy passenger terminals.
The logjam led Carnival to propose building a $100 million passenger terminal at Pier 7, which sits at the foot of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The company, which offered to pay about three-quarters of the cost, said the pier could easily accommodate the Queen Mary 2.
"New York remains our port of choice. But now is the time to stop procrastinating," said Giora Israel, vice president for strategic planning at Carnival. "The berths in Brooklyn can be converted in a short time to allow us to expand capacity in New York and allow for upgrades on the West Side."
Royal Caribbean, a competitor, could not wait while the city considered the idea. Mr. Tercek said the company decided to move the Royal Caribbean line's New York operations to Bayonne, where it could easily convert a warehouse on the old military pier into a terminal, while keeping its Celebrity line in Manhattan.
Daniel L. Doctoroff, deputy mayor of New York for Economic Development and Rebuilding, said the city's loss was not permanent. He said Royal Caribbean had made a commitment to Bayonne of only one year. In the meantime, he said, the Bloomberg administration would soon release a comprehensive plan for renovation and expansion.
"I believe that if New York provides adequate facilities, which will require a substantial investment by the city and its private partners," Mr. Doctoroff said, "I have no doubt in the long term New York City will capture the market share in the area."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com
City to boost its a-pier-ance
Wednesday, February 4th, 2004
The city wants to get its piers back in shipshape.
In a bid to keep New York's top-dollar cruise ships from docking at more modern ports, the city Economic Development Corp. unveiled a $250 million plan yesterday to ready outmoded piers for a new generation of luxury liners.
The proposal comes just weeks after Royal Caribbean Lines, frustrated by Manhattan's inadequate West Side piers, moved its berth to Bayonne, N.J., and less than three months before the world's largest cruise ship, the Queen Mary 2, is set to steam into New York Harbor for the first time.
Economic Development Corp. Executive Vice President Kate Ascher, criticized by the shipping industry for foot-dragging on port development, unveiled the proposal at a City Council hearing on the future of the city's cruise industry.
The announcement came as a surprise after negotiations between the city and Carnival Cruise Lines to redevelop piers in Brooklyn for the Queen Mary 2 recently broke down.
NYC pier plans may be too late
Upgrades promised but Royal Caribbean to sail from Bayonne
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
By Jennifer Friedlin
Associated Press writer
NEW YORK - For Dianna Nachamkin, an 11-day cruise on calm Caribbean seas was not enough to wash away the memory of her unpleasant departure from a New York City port.
"It was terrible, horrific. The ice was a problem and they didn't clean the pier," said Nachamkin, of Albany, who spent three hours in a cold waiting room with limited seats and one bare-bones concession stand before she could board.
As a gateway to the seas, Manhattan's West Side passenger ship terminal has long been a source of consternation for passengers and cruise line operators. They have complained about the drab, crowded waiting rooms and inadequate infrastructure that can lead to congestion and confusion as people try to navigate the terminal.
The conditions became such a problem that Royal Caribbean, a leading cruise company, announced in December that it would move most of its ships to Bayonne, a switch that appears to have roused New York City officials.
"It certainly was a wake-up call," said Kate Ascher, executive vice president of the city's Economic Development Corporation.
The cruise line has signed a "letter of agreement" with the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority to base two of its ships - with alternating cruise dates, so at any given time no more than one ship would be in port - at the former Military Ocean Terminal.
Eventually, plans call for improvements to accommodate a long-term stay of Royal Caribbean at the port, with a terminal and facilities for up to two cruise ships to dock in New York Harbor at the same time.
Negotiations on the deal continue, but Bayonne officials say the deal is a binding one and the first ship, the Empress of the Seas, will sail out of Bayonne on May 9 for a six-night voyage to the Caribbean.
Since Royal Caribbean's announcement, New York City officials have been trying to reaffirm the city's commitment to the cruise industry, whose strong growth has helped buoy the local economy through tough times. The industry contributed $800 million to the economy last year as more than 887,000 passengers embarked from the West Side, up from 425,000 a decade ago.
A few weeks after Royal Caribbean caught New York City unaware, city officials unveiled plans for a $50 million facelift of the piers located between West 47th and West 53rd streets - including new stairways, escalators and elevators, new signs to direct passengers and more taxi stands to relieve congestion.
Ascher said the city also hopes to undertake more far-reaching plans, including a $20 million interim terminal at Pier 7 in Brooklyn that would provide docking space while the West Side piers were renovated.
An even grander master plan may come by spring, Ascher said. That would include reducing the number of berths on the West Side from five to three or four - making more room for passenger accommodations - and turning Pier 7 into a permanent port of entry with two or three berths big enough to accommodate massive ships.
Such improvements couldn't come soon enough for cruise operators who have grown frustrated by what they see as the city's sluggishness in upgrading the piers to support growing demand.
Giora Israel, vice president for strategic planning for Carnival Corporation, the largest operator in the world, called the city's initial $50 million plan "barely scratching the surface. . You won't see a lot of bang for the money."
Israel said his company estimated that it would cost up to $200 million to bring the West Side piers up to par and another $110 million to $120 million to build a new two-berth terminal in Brooklyn to accommodate ships like Carnival's Queen Mary 2.
That ship, the world's largest and most expensive, had to get a temporary exemption from the Coast Guard to extend 132 feet beyond the West Side pier into the Hudson. While the exemption is good for 18 months, Israel said his company needs a more permanent solution.
"I don't want to say we're going to leave New York, our business is growing," said Israel. "But necessity is the mother of invention."
And necessity is here.
"After 9/11 people were more reluctant to fly," said Brian Major, spokesman for Cruise Lines International Association, a trade organization. "The ship companies are responding."
Over the past five years the industry has added 62 ships and dozens of routes that enable passengers to embark from cities all along the U.S. seaboard, including Baltimore, New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles and New York.
Nearly everyone agrees that the West Side facility, built in the 1930s and last renovated in the 1970s, can no longer handle the number of passengers entering and leaving New York. The crowded terminals are poorly air-conditioned in summer and inadequately heated in winter.
"It's classic New York. The same pier has been here for decades and they don't do anything with it," said passenger Ted Moody, as he waited for his ride home to Danbury, Conn. "When you compare it to Miami, there's no comparison."
The problems got so bad that Royal Caribbean transferred three of its four cruise ships out of New York. The company relocated the Horizon, a 1,500-passenger ship, to Philadelphia and then dropped the bomb that the Nordic Empress - which will be rechristened Empress of the Seas - and the massive Voyager of the Seas, a 3,000-passenger liner, were headed to Bayonne for an indefinite period.
"We had several dates when we needed the space to turn around a ship with 3,500 people leaving and 3,500 coming on board. We weren't able to get the necessary commitments for the space," said Adam Goldstein, executive vice president for Royal Caribbean. "We had to start looking for alternatives."
When Royal Caribbean began talking with the officials in Bayonne, Goldstein said the conversation progressed smoothly. Whatever sacrifices leaving Manhattan entailed would be offset by the large space and up-to-date facilities Bayonne offered, Royal Caribbean found.
"Bayonne has the berth to handle the biggest ships and that led to a conversation that was rapid and mutually beneficial," Goldstein said. "We really appreciate how Bayonne has seized this opportunity."
The traffic caused by these cruise lines is crippling. What is the economic benefit of keeping the passenger terminals in NYC? How much economic activity do they really generate?
Unless something is done fast, the cruise ship industry in New York is screwed.
Friendly faces in place for first 'bon voyage'
Cruise ship due at Peninsula this morning; to sail Sunday
Friday, May 07, 2004
By Ronald Leir
Journal staff writer
Empress of the Seas was scheduled to arrive in Bayonne at 6 o'clock this morning, and when the cruise ship departs Sunday night for its inaugural cruise to Bermuda, Millie Eglentowicz, a Bayonne-based real estate saleswoman, will be there to wish its first paying passengers bon voyage.
Eglentowicz used to book private tour groups as a local travel agent - "I made sure they (travelers) got on the bus and I saw them when they got off," she quipped. Now she will be meeting and greeting guests as one of 150 people hired to guide cruise line passengers through the boarding process at the temporary passenger terminal and then onto shuttle buses to the pier where their liner is berthed.
Two of every five "meeters and greeters" are from Bayonne and one out of five is from Jersey City, according to Celeste Gladstone, president of CruiseLink II Ltd., of North Brunswick, the company hired by Royal Caribbean International to train and organize the greeters.
Gladstone said that during the sailing season at Bayonne, all 150 will be rotated through duties as "guest assistance agents" - who will direct passengers through the maze - and "check-in agents" - who will screen passengers' tickets and other credentials before boarding.
All have undergone four hours of training, done role-playing in different scenarios as guest and agent, and tomorrow, the recruits will report to the terminal for an hour of training in what Gladstone called the "Gold Anchor Standards" of conduct from a Royal Caribbean representative.
Leaving nothing to chance, however, Gladstone said that her company will be assigning "advisers" - folks who've done similar duty at other ports of call - to the raw rookies as observers. For every five agents, there'll be one adviser, she said.
"We'll be doing that for the first few weeks of our Bayonne operation," Gladstone said.
If anyone can't make the grade, CruiseLink is confident it can find replacements, Gladstone said, noting there were 550 who applied for the jobs. The company had inquiries from as far as California and Paris.
Al Ammarito, of Bayonne, a telephone company retiree now working as a CruiseLink agent, has never been on a cruise - unless you count the ocean crossings he made as a Navy seaman 1st class aboard an aircraft carrier between 1968 and 1971.
"I enjoyed my time on the water," he said.
Ammarito said he spotted the agent job posting in the want ads and applied.
"I was actually looking for a bartender's job and I was thinking, 'Maybe I could be a bartender on a cruise ship,'" he said. He didn't get that job, but greeting passengers gets him a little closer to the big boat.
Jersey City's Lisa D. Belle, who has worked as a Wall Street trader's assistant, said she applied "because I wanted something a little different. I'm a people person and I thought this would be an opportunity for a different approach for dealing with people every day."
Both Belle and Eglentowicz have cruised before, but both feel - as does Ammarito - that the newest Royal Caribbean venture will put Bayonne on the map as never before.
"We have something really great here," Belle said. "Most cruises are designated for going out of Florida or New York, but now we have something close to home."
Ever the saleswoman, Eglentowicz enthusiastically rattled off a list of attractions she found on her most recent Royal Caribbean cruise - all of which, she reminds a visitor, will be found on the Empress of the Seas.
"There's going to be 2,300 people on that boat and I can't wait to go down there," she said. "I'm going to watch Bayonne open up like a rose. I have my 'Go!' smile on."
The ex-sailor, Ammarito, says: "I want to be in on the excitement when this blossoms into a great thing for Bayonne - something totally different that can only bring good press to Bayonne."
Copyright 2004 The Jersey Journal
Gov: Cruise ships are city's rebirth
Menendez, too, hails economic impact as port opens at Peninsula
Saturday, May 15, 2004
By Bonnie Friedman
Journal staff writer
Gov. James E. McGreevey and officials from the local, state and federal governments gathered at the new Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne yesterday morning to mark the facility's official opening.
"Being from Jersey City, I always knew that Bayonne was a vacation destination," McGreevey said. "This is the beginning of a profound renaissance, a testament to the vision, will power and hard work of the city of Bayonne. This is the beginning of its rebirth."
Yesterday's festivities coincided with the inaugural launch of Royal Caribbean's flagship vessel, the Voyager, from her new home in Bayonne. The Voyager is the second ship to sail from the newly christened port. Last week, the newly refurbished Empress of the Seas left for Bermuda with 1,600 passengers aboard.
Royal Caribbean's presence in Bayonne marks the first time in 40 years that cruise ships are sailing out of New Jersey, an arrangement that officials said will be beneficial to residents of Bayonne and the rest of the state.
"This brings an enormous economic impact to the community," said U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez, D-Hoboken, who helped secure $800 million in federal and state funding for the dredging of the port.
"They have created 250 jobs and every time a ship docks, it has a $1 million impact to the area. I say that's a good neighbor."
With Royal Caribbean's two ships in place, officials are already looking at the future of the entire 432-acre parcel, formerly the Military Ocean Terminal and now called the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, as a site for hotels, restaurants, recreation and even more cruise ships. McGreevey estimated that the port has the ability to house six ships at one time.
But Council President Vincent Lo Re, Jr. said he wouldn't mind if the whole site were to be used as a cruise ship port.
"Just to see the ship gives me goose bumps," Lo Re said. "And it's a wonderful industry. Who do you know in the travel industry that's unhappy?"
And Royal Caribbean, which has yet to sign a lease, appears to be just as happy to have found a new home in Bayonne. Officials of the company approached the Local Redevelopment Authority late last year after they were unable to secure all the dates they needed in New York City.
"Royal Caribbean is delighted to be the flagship tenant at the beginning of this redevelopment effort," said Richard D. Fain, CEO and chairman of Royal Caribbean. "We are looking forward to this area realizing its potential and to being a part of it."
After the ceremony, guests were invited aboard the 1,021-foot-long Voyager to view its 15 decks and many amenities.
Introduced in 1999, The Voyager is more modern than her Empress counterpart. The ship features a football-field-sized promenade filled with shops and restaurants, as well as an ice-skating rink, in-line skating course, miniature golf course, basketball court and chapel.
As guests dined in the magnificent multilevel Carmen dining room, they could not help but look with awe at their opulent surroundings.
"It's like being in a hotel," said Patricia McGeehan, the Bayonne superintendent of schools.
Copyright 2004 The Jersey Journal.