Cruise ship comes calling to New London in first visit since 2010

New London - The Grande Caribe, a 96-passenger cruise ship, stayed overnight at City Pier Monday, bringing just over 75 people into the city during a cruise from Boston to upstate New York.

The Grande Caribe, a 184-foot ship run by Blount Small Ship Adventures, arrived at noon and was scheduled to depart at 6 this morning. It will return to the city Oct. 22 for an eight-hour visit.

It is the first time a cruise ship, albeit a small one, has visited the city since 2010.

Passengers aboard the Grande Caribe were offered a day trip to Mystic Seaport or just relaxed on board. A few visitors were seen strolling through downtown Monday afternoon, the Columbus Day holiday.

The Grande Caribe, which is small enough to sail inland passages and go through locks, allows passengers to bring their own alcohol on board. It provides bike and kayak rentals, guest lecturers, a glass bottom launch and photography workshops.

Last month, George Cassidy, executive director of the Stonington-based Connecticut Cruise Ship Task Force, said cruise line visits to New London were hurt by the nation's economic problems, as well as the high cost of docking rights at State Pier - charges that once were nearly as high as for a stop in Boston. Logistec USA Inc., which runs State Pier, recently lowered its rates, he said.

Princess Cruises' Dawn Princess, with a capacity of nearly 2,000 passengers and a crew of more than 900, is expected to arrive for a port of call in New London in 2014, according to Cassidy.

The first cruise ship to stop in New London in recent times arrived in September 2002. The 612-foot Regal Empress was impressive at the time with its capacity of up to 500 passengers. But it was quickly dwarfed by other ships, including the m/s Maasdam, the m/s Veendam and the m/s Explorer of the Seas. The m/s Royal Princess visited Connecticut five times in 2008. It was a year in which nine cruise ships visited New London.

At the time, officials estimated that the cruise ships pumped $1.2 million into the local economy, based on passengers spending an average of $100.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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