When you think of cruises, you may think of cities with warmer climes than Boston’s. But as a cruise port the Hub garners some pretty impressive numbers. Massachusetts ranked eighth nationwide last year for cruise industry direct expenditure, totaling $480 million and generating 8,154 jobs, according to Cruise Lines International Association.
With the completion of an $11 million renovation of the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal two years ago, what was a dark, industrial-looking space was improved with artwork, a renovated waiting area, and faster embarkation and debarkation processes, according to Miraj A. Berry, media relations manager for the Massachusetts Port Authority.
“Now we can let passengers off ships at the same time others are getting on,” Berry said of the terminal, which opened in 1986 and once served as an army base. “In the past we couldn’t overlap, and now it’s much better for passengers.”
The most popular destination out of Boston is Bermuda, Berry said, with round trips run by Norwegian Cruise Lines on the Norwegian Dawn.
“Over the past several seasons, the ship has proved to be extremely popular as the only vessel cruising to Bermuda from Boston, and has sailed close to or at capacity each week,” said Vanessa Lane, Norwegian’s public relations manager. “Using 2,200 passengers as an average, with 22 cruises each year, close to 50,000 guests are visiting Bermuda each season.”
Norwegian also cruises to other warm-weather ports out of Boston. In early November, the Norwegian Dawn runs a 14-day Caribbean trip, with ports of call in St. Thomas, St. John, Barbados, Curaçao, Aruba, and Mexico, ending in Tampa.
Norwegian also runs popular foliage cruises, seven-day Canada and New England itineraries with stops in Portland, Maine; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and ending in Quebec. All the cruises, Lane said, “make Boston a very popular market for Norwegian.”
Key to Boston’s success as a cruise port is the proximity of the terminal to downtown.
“As a gateway port, Boston provides us with a very nice mix of what we look for in a turn port: good airlift, convenient distances to other ports and other gateways such as Quebec or Montreal,” said Erik Elvejord, public relations director for Holland America Line. Boston is “a fantastic town for history, food, and experience, so guests can choose to come in early or stay late,” he said.
Elvejord said approximately 65,000 Holland America passengers will visit the city this year, based on 47 cruises that depart, end, or visit Boston during the season. The line uses three ships out of the city: Eurodam, with a capacity of 2,014 passengers; Maasdam, with 1,258; and Veendam, with 1,350.
Another large cruise line using Boston is Royal Caribbean, which this season had seven-night, round-trip itineraries that included stops in Portland and Bar Harbor; Saint John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador; and Halifax.
Smaller cruise lines use Boston too. Seabourn’s Sojourn ship, with a maximum of 450 passengers, departed Boston earlier this month for a 10-day voyage to Montreal with stops in Bar Harbor, Halifax, and Quebec.
“Boston is a wonderful port for Seabourn because its small ships have close access to the historic part of the town, and the airlift in and out is quite adequate for our small guest capacity,” said Bruce Good, Seabourn’s director of public relations.
Smaller still is the 88-passenger Grand Mariner, part of Blount Small Ship Adventures, based in Warren, R.I., which left Boston on a cruise that ended in New York, with stops in New Bedford; Newport, R.I.; New London, Conn.; and in New York at West Point, Troy, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Catskill, and Manhattan.
“We’re little,” said Nancy Blount, president of the company started by her father, Luther, in 1966, “but our boats have to be the size they are to do the itineraries we do.”
Blount doesn’t run the Boston-New York cruise regularly, offering it “every other year or so,” she said, adding that it’s one “I’m sure we’ll have back on our schedule, probably in 2015.”