Local Cruises

| January 5, 2009

Local cruises, ship departures from U.S. cities like Seattle and Boston, are back due to the economic slowdown. Here is a guide to finding the perfect local cruise for you.

Local cruises, also known as drive-to cruises in the cruise industry, are popular once again as people look to scale back their vacation costs. A local cruise saves time and money by eliminating the need to fly to your departure port. There is a local cruise for almost everyone if you live within a few hours of the coast -- East or West. Here is our local cruise guide for you:

Why the Local Cruise is Back The concept of local cruises, where customers could easily drive to the ships, is as old as cruising. But the idea of placing ships in port cities around the entire United States from Seattle to Boston first took hold just after the crisis of 9/11. After the attack people were simply afraid to fly, so the cruise lines wisely chose to send the ships to the cruisers.

All of the major cruise lines started home-porting ships in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Galveston, New Orleans, Mobile, Tampa, Port Canaveral, Charleston, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York and Boston. Although the fear of flying abated after a few years, these local cruise offerings stayed popular -- and now even more with the recent skyrocketing prices of airfare and gasoline.

Local cruise options are both year-round and seasonal, with most of the year-round port cities being closer to the southern border. San Diego, New Orleans and Galveston are surprisingly busy ports, for example, in addition to the traditional port cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and New York.

Other local cruise ports like Seattle, Charleston, Philly, Baltimore and Boston are more seasonal, tending to pick up traffic in either the summer or fall seasons.

History of the "Local Cruise" Originally, passenger ships were solely for transoceanic travel, mostly from Europe to the United States. But when the airlines stole that business away forever the modern tropical cruise vacation was born.

Cruise vacations actually began as local businesses in three cities in the United States; New York, Miami and Los Angeles. New York had Sitmar Cruises. One of Miami's first cruise lines was Norwegian Caribbean Lines known as NCL today. Los Angeles spawned Princess Cruises, which gained notoriety in the 1970s as the original "Love Boat."

The rest is history -- as they say. NCL was the first cruise line to market air travel to Florida to catch a cruise, and the first non-local market they targeted was California. Soon, Carnival and Royal Caribbean also became nationally known as the idea of flying to Florida to catch a cruise ship caught on. That was the end of the original "local cruise" perception in Miami, but you can still find a "local cruise" in almost any port city of the United States.

Which are the Local Cruise Lines? Premier Cruises of "Big Red Boat" fame was the first line to homeport in Port Canaveral, Florida. Today, Port Canaveral is one of the busiest cruise ports in the world as it is also the home of Disney Cruises and the homeport for three Carnival and two Royal Caribbean ships.

Ft. Lauderdale -- just 40 miles north of Miami -- is the busiest cruise port in the world. It will be the home of both the new Oasis of the Seas and her sister ship Allure of the Seas, soon to be the largest cruise ships in the world when Oasis is launched in 2009.

When Princess Cruises first became the Love Boat it was just a small Los Angeles cruise line offering 7-day turnarounds to the Mexican Riviera. Today it has cruise ships stationed around the world. Crystal Cruises is also headquartered in Los Angeles with ships that sail worldwide.

Holland America was started and is still headquartered in Seattle, to take advantage of the summer cruise market to Alaska. New York City was the United States home office for Sitmar Cruises and Cunard Lines.

Finding a Local Cruise for You We mentioned all of the various local cruise ports throughout the United States, now let's show a schedule of local cruises leaving from these port cities:

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