|Today's big-shocker news item award is presented to ... Cunard's Queen Mary 2. P&O Princess Cruises International has announced that the ship, along with others in the P&O Princess Cruises family, will abandon Manhattan as a cruise turn-around point.|
But QM2 won't venture far; instead, beginning in April of 2006, the ship's New York home will be a new port facility in Brooklyn's Red Hook. QM2 will be the first to depart from Red Hook, setting sail on April 22, 2006 for an Atlantic crossing. Princess Cruises' Crown Princess, which debuts next spring and will spend its maiden season homeporting from New York, will depart from Red Hook for the first time on June 14, 2006.
The development of Red Hook -- a longtime industrial shipping area on the East River -- is part of a major effort by the city to shore up its moldering Manhattan pier facility. Construction of Brooklyn's Pier 12, as it's dubbed, is already underway and includes pier reinforcements, bollard and fender installation, steel repair, dock work, and utility installation. An existing pier shed will be transformed into a cruise terminal, and landscaping improvements, road development and creation of a parking facility will be completed this fall.
The Brooklyn facility is not only a much-welcomed project but also a survival effort if New York City is to hang on to its reputation as the East Coast's most dynamic (and increasingly popular) cruise turn-around port. Due to dissatisfaction with Manhattan's New York Cruise Terminal, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have already transferred some ships across the Hudson to Bayonne, New Jersey's Cape Liberty.
For Princess, says Dean Brown, executive vice president of fleet operations for both Princess and Cunard, the rationale for the move is a chance to "see where our best opportunity was to take care of our customer, both in the short and long terms. We saw great potential in Brooklyn to develop a passenger facility that will take better care of customers, make it easier to get through and easier to use." It is, he adds, "definitely better than the existing situation."
Indeed, the Red Hook facility does offer some other major bonuses: it's closer to LaGuardia and JFK Airport, it's an easy taxi ride to Manhattan, and some of the neighborhoods around the pier are among Brooklyn's trendiest. There's even a fairly new Marriott Hotel in downtown Brooklyn, which isn't far from the pier facility.
And there's one more plus. "When you sail into New York, a lot of people are still in bed and miss the view," Brown says. "When you sail away from New York in the evening from Red Hook, you'll cruise around Governor's Island right to the most perfect view of the skyline and down past the Statue of Liberty. It's one of the most dramatic sailaways in the world."