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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Things Looking Up for Jacksonville as a Cruise Ship Hub

Did you know that Jacksonville, Fla. is within a day's drive of one-third of the U.S. population?

The powers-that-be in Jacksonville sure do, and they're wooing cruise lines to use the city's burgeoning port as a hub for "drive-in" cruises that residents of the southeastern USA can reach without flying.

The northeastern Florida port town's efforts got a big boost this week when Carnival deployed a newer and bigger ship at the port, the 2,052-passenger Fascination. The vessel is nearly 40% larger than the line's previous ship in the market, the 1,486-passenger Celebration.

The Jacksonville Business Journal notes this morning that pricier plane tickets, fewer available airline seats and the increased hassle of flying are making the Jacksonville port more attractive to drive-in passengers. But to fully tap its potential, the city needs to move forward with plans to build a new cruise terminal, the news outlet says, noting that a bridge and power lines over the city's St. Johns River limit the size of ships that can call at the current terminal.

The Journal quotes a port official as saying he expects Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean to follow Carnival’s lead once they’re confident that a newer terminal is on the way. The port authority already has bought land for a new terminal and hopes to have it under construction by early 2009.

The Fascination will sail four- and five-night voyages to the Bahamas and Key West, FL.

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