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New London rolls out red carpet for cruise ship


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New London hopes to become port of destination for cruise ships

Associated Press

April 11 2004

NEW LONDON, Conn. -- This coastal city will roll out the red carpet when the cruise ship Maasdam pulls into the state pier next month, as a state-appointed task force continues work on a long-term plan to make New London a viable port of call.

The ship will slip into port May 14 as part of Holland America Line's cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to Montreal. When it arrives, New London will respond with a 14-gun salvo and the rolling beat of a fife and drum corps. Organizers of the cruise ship effort are also pushing the National Guard to have a plane circle overhead.

"What we're doing is going to be great," said George Cassidy, executive director of the state task force evaluating New London as a port of call. "This is a little different from any other port."

The Maasdam will bring 1,200 passengers and 550 crew members to New London. It will be the first cruise ship to stop in New London since the Regal Empress arrived in 2002.

Cassidy has arranged other fanfare for the Maasdam's visit, including music, banners and official proclamations. He is hoping that next month's visit and another stop by the Maasdam in October will register well with travelers, The Day of New London reported.

The state task force will be working for the next several months to find out what kind of resources will be needed for New London to emerge as a viable port of call.

Port managers and travel experts throughout New England say that cruise companies look for what one called "iconic attractions" - landmarks such as Acadia National Park in Maine or, here, the Mystic Seaport - that will lure passengers on the day trips that the cruise lines sell on top of the baseline ticket.

"You have to have name recognition," said Amy Powers of Cruise Maine, an organization that represents that state's 13 ports. "There are myriad things you can do to get your name out there," including working with travel writers.

Bar Harbor, Maine, located at the foot of Acadia National Park, outpaces all the small New England ports. A recent study by the University of Maine counted 120,000 passengers in 2002, with each of them spending roughly $85 during their time in port.

Other cities, such as Portsmouth, N.H., have halted their efforts to attract cruises, while others have found success after years of trumpeting their names at trade shows and cruise conventions, often at considerable expense.

Oivind Mathisen, editor of Cruise Industry News, said the growth of the cruise industry means greater opportunity for smaller ports such as New London.

"With more variety of ships, it is more likely than ever that cruises will be interested in going to your port," Mathisen said. "There is a range of cruise products - it isn't just lying in the sun anymore."

From The Hartford Courant

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