City looks for cruise ship boost this year

By Brian Boyd
Hundreds of additional cruise ship passengers could be coming ashore in the city this summer, giving a lift to local museums, shops and restaurants.
American Cruise Lines, which has been docking in the city since 2000, has increased its planned stops from 16 last year to 21 this year. Blount Small Ship Adventures, which scheduled one trip last year, is planning five this year, according to Kristin Decas, executive director of the city’s Harbor Development Commission.
Passengers have enjoyed their time in the city, and the cruise lines are responding to the positive feedback about New Bedford, she said.
“I think they’re having a good
experience here, first and foremost,” Decas said. “I think the passengers enjoy the excursions.”
This year, the city’s cruise ship season runs from May 22 to Sept. 26.
More than 1,500 passengers visited the city during the 2010 cruise season, and the larger number of stops would push the number over 2,300 if the ships travel at full capacity, said Arthur P. Motta Jr., senior director of marketing and communications at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
The cruise ships account for a major part of attendance at the museum during the summer, and the passengers are a boon to other attractions in the city, he said.
“These tourists come without their cars Ñ it’s not a parking issue Ñ and they are legitimately interested in seeing everything there is to see in the port and in the city,” Motta said.
The visitors tend to be older and retired but also highly educated and interested in both maritime history and the city as a whole. They ask for restaurant suggestions and are particularly eager to try Portuguese food when in town, he said.
Mayor Scott W. Lang said while there is no exact figure for how much money the cruise ships bring into the city, it’s in the tens of thousands over the course of a season.
“The more people who come in, the more it stimulates the economy,” Lang said.
The city offers a vibrant port with many attractions, he said. There is also an upswing in bus tours, another source of tourists, he added.
Tim Beebe, vice president of marketing for American Cruise Lines, said their passengers love New Bedford because it’s an authentic New England seaport.
“They are looking for a cultural experience and enjoy seeing the fishing fleet and the fishermen at work,” he said in a statement.
Blount’s operations manager, Erika Moore, echoed Beebe in her praise.
“They enjoyed being docked right in the heart of downtown and being able to experience the fishermen at work,” she said in a statement. “They appreciated the welcoming by the city, and many were surprised and pleased at the growing arts scene and the many new restaurants, galleries and shops.”
Private and public organizations in the city have worked together to promote tourism, and the effort is one of the reasons the number of cruise stops is increasing, Decas said.
For their visit, cruise ship passengers receive marketing material aimed directly at them. Also, businesses have participated in a coupon book for the passengers, and improvements to State Pier, such as better lighting, has helped as well, she said.
The city has achieved a critical mass with small ships that emphasize the destinations more than the cruise itself. It could in the future attract larger ships, convincing them to anchor outside the port and ferrying their passengers to the city, Decas said.
“We are exploring opportunities that might be out there,” she said.
March 05, 2011 12:00 AM
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