The fall cruise-ship season in the port of New Bedford and Newport Harbor is lighter this year than in years past, but in an international market, promoters say, holding steady is a good thing.
At 35 large cruise ships, according to Newport Harbormaster Timothy J. Mills, the itinerary from May through November is less than what it was in 2011, when 67 ships called there.
This year’s count doesn’t include 10 calls either in Newport or at Fort Adams from two smaller ships brought in by Warren-based Blount Small Ship Adventures, which specializes in increasingly popular river cruises.
Likewise, New Bedford has 23 ships scheduled to call this season so far, more than last year, but less than the 26 that called in 2011, said Edward Anthes-Washburn, deputy port director. In New Bedford, a hurricane barrier prevents entry by the larger ships, but Blount and American Cruise Lines call with passengers in the 90- to 200-range per ship, he said.
Cruise ship traffic is “a little thin” entering the fall season, said Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport, mainly because business in the industry is cyclical.
“Cruise ships will sell a particular destination for a while, and then they saturate it,” Smith said. “They want repeat customers, so they rotate their destinations.”
Without a pier in Newport, cruise ships cannot dock, but rather have to tender, or connect, with smaller boats that bring passengers ashore. But while the lack of a pier is Newport’s “Achilles’ heel,” Smith said, the 100-foot-deep port and the high-density plethora of attractions remain part of the port’s appeal for major cruise lines. According to the port’s itinerary, the Norwegian Gem has five ports of call coming up, and the Carribean Princess will visit six times this season.
In Newport, changed itineraries have contributed to fewer ship visits. A cruise that combined Bermuda with Newport and Boston last summer was not offered this year, Gregory Gordon, vice president of Shore Excursions for North America and the Caribbean for Intercruises Shoreside and Port Services, said in an email.