Cruise ship passengers will find a busy city when they arrive Saturday

New London - More than 2,000 people disembarked from the Crown Princess in September to explore the city and surrounding attractions, so entrepreneurs and historical site hosts are doing everything they can to draw them again on Saturday.

The cruise ship, which spent the day here Sept. 18, is returning Saturday morning with 3,010 new passengers and its 1,142-member crew, and New London is ready to greet them.

The ship is slated to arrive at 7 a.m. and depart at 2 p.m. The earlier departure time is so the ship can travel to its next port of call in Maine, said George Cassidy, executive director of the Connecticut Cruise Ship Task Force.

"The feedback from the passengers and crew of their visit in New London on Sept. 18 has been fabulous," said Cassidy, whose observations were echoed by Penny Parsekian, chief executive officer of New London Main Street. Parsekian has drafted two dispatchers and 16 shuttle guides for buses taking visitors into the city.

Last month, the exact count of people riding city buses was 1,904, according to the count kept by dispatchers, Parsekian said. In addition, dozens of passengers from England and Wales are "walkers (who) never got on the bus," but made the trek from State Pier downtown by foot, she said.

In anticipation of the crowds, the city is again staging a market of small businesses at the Parade Plaza and is hosting a vintage car show at the waterfront park, Parsekian said. The tall ship Half Moon will be at one of the piers on waterfront and Captain Treasures in the Atrium on State Street is hosting a close-out furniture sale, she said.

In addition, four historical sites are also opening up early to cater to visitors. The Custom House and Hempstead Houses will open at 8 a.m. and the Nathan Hale schoolhouse and Shaw Mansion will open at 9 a.m., she said.

The Thames Tow Boat Company's tug Patricia Ann will meet the cruise ship at the mouth of the Thames River at approximately 6:15 a.m. to welcome and escort her to the Admiral Harold E. Shear State Pier, where the Nutmeg Fife and Drum Corps provide rousing traditional music as a greeting while passengers disembark.

The ship's first port-call is Newport, R.I., on Friday. New London and Portland, Maine, port-calls will be followed by visits to Boston; St. John, New Brunswick; Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia; and then a full day at sea before the cruise ends in Quebec City, Cassidy said.

In addition to exploring the city, passengers and crew will have the chance to take excursions to Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium, Olde Mistick Village, the USS Nautilus & Submarine Force Museum and the Essex Steam Train, Cassidy said.

The Crown Princess' second visit will be the second and probably the last this year, Cassidy said. He is working to schedule more visits over the next two years, he said.

p.daddona@theday.com

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