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Assignment: Sail Bayonne, New Jersey

by Marcia Schonberg


If you’ve never considered sailing Bayonne, you’re not alone. Most cruise passengers haven’t even heard of it – even if it is the newest cruise port in the world – and if you live in the northeastern sector of the United States, a new easy to reach drive-to terminal.

Royal Caribbean International’s newly revitalized Empress of the Seas (formerly the Nordic Empress) was first to sail from Bayonne, New Jersey’s Cape Liberty Cruise Port, heading to Bermuda for alternate six- and eight-night vacations. She began a week before the official port opening and the arrival of Royal Caribbean’s 3114-passenger mega-cruise ship, Voyager of the Sea in mid-May, 2004.

Voyager of the Sea, coming straight from a hurried three-week make-over in dry dock, departs her new seasonal home for alternating five-night Canada cruises and nine day jaunts in the Caribbean. Also leaving the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, New Jersey, she leaves behind views of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan when she heads for deeper waters and leisurely summertime itineraries to destinations like Halifax, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick or south to Labadee, Hispaniola; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. The schedule runs through October before repositioning in Miami for the winter.

Vacationers selecting one of these four itineraries this summer needn’t worry about trying this new cruise port. Bayonne offers relief – first in the pocketbook and then wherever you’re affected by stress. This fairly undeveloped (which is probably a gross understatement) local port charges $12/day parking fees — half that of others, say the New York Harbor in Manhattan. And when arriving the evening before the cruise, you can easily opt for motel/hotel accommodations in nearby Jersey City, also in the throngs of revitalization. During my recent stay, I chose a handy full-service Courtyard by Marriott in the Harbor District, but there are others, like the new Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson (201/469-1234). A plethora of others, all less expensive than staying in more she-she destinations, are located near the airport.

Convenience may even outweigh monetary savings when drivers and those arriving by air experience the ease of getting to the port. The New Jersey location, amid a warehouse complex left from its former life as Bayonne’s Military Ocean Terminal, is a hassle-free 15-minute ride from the Newark Liberty International Airport and but a few minutes from exit 14A on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. For those driving from spots in the northeast U.S. and Midwest, that means a much more relaxed way of beginning a vacation.

And Bayonne’s a half hour closer to the Caribbean, a fact that’s at least important to the captain whose job is all about schedules, according to Adam Goldstein, executive vice president, Brand Operations, for Royal Caribbean International who was on site for the port’s grand opening festivities.

Currently, don’t expect more than the parking lot, workers still as new as the berths and a stark-looking make-do port facility. Everything – even Royal Caribbean’s billboard-style signage covering the brick and graffiti warehouse façades – looks better and runs smoother each week Royal Caribbean operates from Port Liberty. “We’re in a temporary phase,” explains Goldstein. “Ultimately, we will construct new terminals to connect passengers to the ship at the eastern end of the peninsula.” Until then, circling shuttles do an efficient job of connecting passengers from port to ship.

The Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority planners envision creating a state of the art cruise port facility complete with mixed-use residential, retail, tourist and office development on this 430-acre parcel of prime real estate, the last remaining swatch on either the New Jersey or New York side of the harbor.

Cape Liberty Cruise Port, a genuine “diamond in the rough,” offers convenience and a New York view, along with the sparkle and energy of future promises.

>>>Voyage of the Sea and Empress of the Sea
Cruise from Cape Liberty Cruise Port


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