American Cruise Lines Reports Successful First Port of Call of the Season

City Markets Itself as Cruise Destination
By Joe Cohen, Standard-Times staff writer

After a morning tour of downtown New Bedford on Tuesday, passengers of the cruise ship American Star return to the vessel for lunch. John Sladewski/The Standard-Times

NEW BEDFORD — The 215-foot cruise ship American Star glided into port Monday night, sidled up to State Pier and inaugurated the city’s 2008 cruise ship season. It was scheduled to sail from the harbor at 3 a.m. today.
Port officials said their goal this year is to step up the region’s image for cruise ships, encouraging passengers to take in sights, including the New Bedford Whaling Museum, galleries and restaurants downtown.
The American Star is operated on the “New England Islands” cruise out of Providence, and is visiting Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in addition to New Bedford.
The American Star was launched in 2007 by American Cruise Lines, whose headquarters are in Guilford, Conn. It has a 45-foot beam, four decks and carries up to 100 passengers in cabins ranging from singles to triples. Timothy J. Beebe, vice president of American Cruise Lines, described the cruise ship as intended to provide simplicity and comfort versus outright luxury.
American Cruise Lines is the only operator of cruise ships visiting the city.
Kristin Decas, executive director of the Harbor Development Commission, said she recently negotiated a five-year contract for a minimum of 20 cruise ship stops a year to visit the city. Ms. Decas said this year American Cruise Lines expects to have 25 cruises make stops at State Pier.
Mr. Beebe said the cruise line will have three boats visiting New Bedford in 2008, and she anticipates adding a fourth boat to its schedule for 2009. The cruises are typically a weeklong and visit ports including the islands and, in some instances, Bristol, R.I.
“The passengers love it,” Mr. Beebe said of the stops in New Bedford.
He said the whaling museum is the high point of the local visit. He said the cruise line has stopped in the harbor since 2000 and the working relationship with local officials has been good.
“New Bedford has been a great port of call. It has been successful for many years,” Mr. Beebe said.
Mr. Beebe said that despite the tough economy, business has remained solid and it has a new ship under construction.
Mr. Beebe would not disclose how many passengers were on the ship for the current cruise, but said it is near capacity.
Ms. Decas said of the passengers, “The neat thing is the people are here in New Bedford as a destination.”
She said the city is providing transportation to places of interest nearby and wants to make the cruise ship stops as successful as possible to encourage more visits and tourism.
“We are building synergy with the historic downtown and the business community,” Ms. Decas said.
Mayor Scott W. Lang said cruise ships help maximize the potential of the working waterfront.
“This is very important for New Bedford and the region because the people who come to tour the city see the tremendous attributes. They also make their way around the region, so it enhances the entire area.”
Mayor Lang said a cruise ship with 100 people “helps to drive the economy.”
“The passengers go back, they tell their friends — many of whom are nearby — and they can make a day trip here by car.”
Ms. Decas said her goal is to encourage other cruise lines to consider New Bedford. She is traveling to Maine this month to a regional cruise conference where she will “campaign for New Bedford.”
In addition, Ms. Decas said, the HDC is studying the economic impact of various industries on the local port economy and will continue tuning its marketing and related efforts to build business.
One local business benefiting from the cruise ships is Whaling City Expeditions, whose brightly colored, canopy-covered launch, the Acushnet, takes people on tours of the port, including the Fairhaven side.
Jeff Pontiff, who runs Whaling City Expeditions, said Tuesday afternoon that he had more than 20 people from the American Star aboard the Acushnet touring the harbor. The boat can take up to 26 passengers.
Mr. Pontiff said the Acushnet carries the cruise ship passengers along the waterfront, including in and out of piers, to see scallopers and draggers, and the hurricane barrier. It travels upriver under the Route 6 bridge to see where sailor Joshua Slocum left to circumnavigate the globe.
“They always seem to have a very good time,” Mr. Pontiff said of the 70-minute boat trip. He charges adult passengers $14, seniors $12 and children $7.
Contact Joe Cohen at
June 04, 2008
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