Can you be a world traveler and a homebody at the same time? Not really, but nearby cruise departure ports make it easy to meld these disparate lifestyles in the most delightful way.
Cruise departure ports in the Northeast are percolating with the world’s most alluring ships, setting off to epic Caribbean jaunts, transatlantic voyages and long weekends of exploration.
And finding their floating doorsteps couldn’t be easier. Skip the pricey, time-consuming plane travel and simply drive to the cruise terminal. Forgo the stress of counting and weighing suitcases, too, because ships don’t impose luggage fees. Then, walk up the gangway, unpack once and let the parade of interesting places unfold. The boat becomes your mobile lair, a familiar touchstone while you delight in a few new experiences.
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Northeast Cruise Departure Ports
Our area boasts four cruise departure ports – one in Boston, one in Bayonne, N.J., (Cape Liberty) and two in New York City (Manhattan and Brooklyn).
New York’s Manhattan terminal stands out as the busiest, serving more than a million passengers annually. Not surprisingly, the iconic sail-away from Manhattan ranks as a rite-of-passage for travelers and never fails to unwind like a cinematographer’s dream. Ships glide down the Hudson River alongside a humming city stacked with skyscrapers, passing Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty before ducking under the Verrazzano Bridge and hitting the open ocean.
Manhattan, Brooklyn and Cape Liberty host cruise ships year-round, while Boston has seasonal appeal from April through November. Popular round-trip itineraries head north along the sea-bitten coastlines of Canada and New England, south to the sun-kissed Caribbean or Bermuda, and east toward Europe’s countless treasures.
Homeport cruises make impromptu escapes effortless. Plus, flexible travelers can scout last-minute deals. Neophytes get the opportunity to test their sea legs without making a major investment, while avid cruisers can parlay savings into a longer itinerary or even an extra voyage.
Since all major lines sail from Northeast cruise departure ports, it’s also worth noting homeport cruises present the perfect opportunity to sample different seafaring styles, especially upscale options that might be within reach considering the resources spared getting to the ship.
Onboard Amenities Abound
No doubt homeport cruising ups the ante on an already value-packed vacation that includes transportation, lodging, dining and onboard entertainment. And when it comes to the latter, don’t be afraid to think big and then go even bigger. Boats bobbing in our drive-to ports tout everything from the seafaring outposts of America’s Test Kitchen on Holland America Line to sky-diving simulators and the Guinness World Record-making “Highest Viewing Deck on a Cruise Ship” (both on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas).
Savor creations from celebrity chefs like “real deal” burgers on Carnival, where Food Network star Guy Fieri has crafted menus for Guy’s Burger Joint. For a tech-savvy culinary extravaganza, complete with a tiny animated chef that will treat your plate like an artist’s palette, Celebrity Summit’s Qsine restaurant beckons. Plus, Anthem enlists bionic bartenders to mix the perfect nightcap.
Ships that Sail From Boston
Departures from Boston include Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships, mostly sailing to Canada, New England and the blushing beaches of Bermuda.
Holland America maintains a strong Beantown presence as well; supplementing the expected itineraries, Zuiderdam proposes a 35-day round-trip to Iceland, Greenland and Scandinavia.
New Jersey Cruises
Cape Liberty homeports ships from Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, namely Celebrity Summit and Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, cruising to Canada, Bermuda, Bahamas and Royal’s Perfect Day at CocoCay private island.
Big Apple Departures
NCL gets credit for initiating the Big Apple homeport trend with the year-round deployment of its then-new ship, Norwegian Dawn, to Manhattan in 2003. Now, several NCL ships spend time homeporting in the city, including newer offerings like the Norwegian Prima and the recently refurbished Gem and Getaway. That’s quite a commitment, and it pays off with diverse itineraries.
For island-lovers, NCL’s Caribbean voyages can’t be beat. The 10 to 14-day itineraries string together a chain of sublime tropical outposts, from lush Saint Lucia to arid Aruba. Enjoy swimming with velvety stingrays atop a sandbar in Grand Cayman or roaming Old San Juan’s cobbled lanes in Puerto Rico.
Disney sails from Manhattan, too, proposing spooky “Halloween on the High Seas” voyages to Bermuda, the Bahamas and Canada. For something decidedly more adult, Oceania’s Insignia delivers an upscale taste of Bermuda via a smaller ship. The week-long itinerary splits time between the capital of Hamilton and quaint St. George, two ports bigger ships can’t squeeze into. Aside from pink-sand beaches, you’ll find Bermuda contains more green golf courses per capita than anywhere else in the world.
Although it’s been open for close to two decades, Brooklyn ranks as the newest cruise departure port in our area. Princess and Cunard ships often begin their journeys here, and MSC Cruises announced year-round cruises from the Red Hook terminal starting in April 2023.
Just thinking about the possibilities makes us root, root, root for the homeports!