By Tom Dwyer
Anthony Caputo, the port director for Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, could not be more proud of the success of the partnership of the city of Bayonne and Royal Caribbean Cruises. In just three short years, Cape Liberty Cruise Port has become one of the busiest cruise ports in the country. The port is ranked second among Northeast and mid-Atlantic coast ports in passenger volume. In 2006 it hosted 71 cruise ship calls, with 321,000 passengers during the 2006 season which ran from May to November. The port was also recognized as one of the top three-rated ports, worldwide, for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, which merged in 1997. “When you take into consideration that we only have one berth and we are home-porting passengers which means that the passengers sail from here and return here unlike port–of-calls, our growth is really incredible,” Caputo said. The 2007 season, which begins in May, will commence year-round trips to its destinations.
Cruise passengers are arriving by trains, planes and automobiles to get to Cape Liberty Cruise Port. Even Caputo is surprised by the distances guests are traveling to set sail from Bayonne. “They are coming as far away as Texas, and as far north as Canada, and as far south as Florida. If you just look at the license plates that come here it’s incredible. We have many guests who drive here and we have international guests who fly into Kennedy and Newark airports. And we have many domestic flights where we try to target Newark as our primary airport,” Caputo explained.
As more passengers travel to Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, it’s important to make their journey as convenient and economical as possible, Caputo believes. Parking rates at Cape Liberty Cruise Port are the same as many ports across the country, and half the price of parking in Manhattan. Cab rates from Newark and Kennedy airports are strictly enforced, $35 one way from Newark and $70 from Kennedy. The cruise lines also offer route buses that go through New England and one that starts in Washington DC that pick up passengers in specific locations who rather travel by bus to the port. Buses will also go to specific cities like Philadelphia if a large group needs transportation. The cruise lines will also work to find local lodging for guests who might want to spend a few days sightseeing before or after sailing.
What made this incredible transformation of growth possible, from the once vacant military terminal to a world-class port, is the partnership of the city of Bayonne with the cruise lines. “I believe our relationship with the city of Bayonne is fantastic,” Caputo said. “I’ve heard nothing but positive things from the city and residents of Bayonne on the cruise port. We are part of an economic engine of the city of Bayonne. We are helping to revitalize it by the money we bring in, not only in Bayonne but the county and the state. We are creating jobs, and we are helping to change the way Hudson County and Bayonne are perceived. Hudson County is now a legitimate contender. I grew up in Hoboken where we were laughed at—not anymore.”
As the word spreads about the services offered by Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises from the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, more and more types of groups are taking advantage. From families, to seniors with more time on their hands, to honeymooners and singles, all are taking advantage of specific packages. One of the fastest growing trends is marriages onboard. “I’ve seen a big jump on ceremonies being held onboard.” Caputo explained. “People can now rent out a hall or a lounge onboard and invite all of their guests. They can have the ceremony either performed by the captain or a chaplain or priest of their own choice. They can have the wedding reception on board. A number of guests will leave the ship after the ceremony while others will stay onboard and sail with the newlyweds. Last year we probably had one ceremony a week; and sometimes two or three weddings a day on the ship.”
Looking toward the future, Caputo sees nothing but growth. “Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises just signed a 35-year contract with the city of Bayonne. We are doubling our investment into passenger amenities and on processing passengers faster—as one is processed on an international flight in an airport, one will be processed here — which makes it much easier and faster, and will bring the port up to the latest government standards.” Cape Liberty Cruise Port is also in the process of building another berth, so they will have the capability to have two large ships in at a time by the end of 2007. But Mr. Caputo is always looking toward the future and how to make the port the best it can be. “I’d like to see our port become as large as Miami in the sense of number of ships sailing from here in the next five years. I think the future is very bright for us.”
Ginger Kemp, the owner of Four Seasons Travel, the oldest travel agency in Hudson County, is a great fan of the cruise operation in Bayonne. “Each year the number of people booking to take cruises out of Bayonne goes up exponentially. We went from hundreds the first year to thousands a year now, and we expect that to grow,” Ms. Kemp said. “And the year-round cruises that will start this year are very exciting and I credit that to Mr. Caputo and his operation for making this all work.” Ms. Kemp believes that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises are good corporate neighbors. “They have supported many of our not-for-profits very generously, and have stepped into Bayonne with two feet on the ground ready to be involved in many different ways. And I do see passengers and crew members in town shopping, which is helping our economy.”
One of the first to believe in the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne was Mayor Joseph Doria, of Bayonne. His desire and vision to move the project forward has proven him right. Today, he believes even more, that a winning partnership with Royal Caribbean is good for Bayonne and the surrounding area. “The Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne is creating more jobs and greater opportunities for the City of Bayonne.”
The Cape Liberty Cruise Port website www.cruiseliberty.com had over a million hits last year and was number one on Google for cruise sites. It covers all cruise packages and destinations offered and just about everything a traveler needs to know if they are interested in sailing out of Bayonne.