Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Charleston Prepares For A Celebrity

With its only regularly scheduled seasonal cruise ship, NCL's Norwegian Majesty, sailing off to faraway waters, what's a city like Charleston, South Carolina to do? While considered a "secondary" port with only limited homeport status, Charleston has snagged a bigger fish (make that ship!) than the one that's leaving.

From February through April 2010, Celebrity Cruises will position the 1,898-passenger, 77,713-ton, Celebrity Mercury in Charleston to sail six 10- and 11-night cruises to the Eastern and Western Caribbean with her final sailing being a 16-night westbound Panama Canal Cruise to Los Angeles that departs on April 19. And, according to Charleston's The Post and Courier, Celebrity Cruises has added five more 10- and 11-night similar Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings from Charleston for the same period in 2011.

The cruise business had looked bleak before the Celebrity announcements, as the State Ports Authority (SPA) anticipated the loss of Norwegian Majesty, the only ship with a contract for seasonal sailings from Charleston, as well as being the one that accounted for 21 of the port's 33 scheduled calls this year. However, Celebrity Mercury, which carries 400 more passengers than the Norwegian Majesty, begins her appearances in Charleston this fall with a day-long port call as part of a 9-night cruise originating in Baltimore.

As reported in The Post and Courier, Interim SPA chief executive John Hassell, who lists cruise business as a top priority for the agency, calls the Celebrity experience "a natural fit for the Charleston visitor market," citing its premium onboard amenities. For the 2010 and 2011 sailings, Celebrity Mercury will dock downtown near the foot of Market Street and in close proximity to shopping and the city's myriad attractions. Good news for passengers, the SPA and the city of Charleston are taking steps toward revamping the area surrounding the passenger terminal.

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