Grand Princess Starting a Trend?

 

To put cruise ships in an athletic context, they're like floating free agents. Every city wants one of its own. The economic impact of having a star of the sea around year after year makes the bean counters salivate. It's one thing to have cruise ships stop by with a few thousand tourists from time to time…it's quite another to know that the big ship (whatever it is) will be down by the bay, forever taking on and disembarking passengers who have money to spend down by the bay.

The security of having this happen for 12 months a year is overwhelming. Lebron James has nothing on ships like the Grand Princess.

This is a ship that underwent the largest and most expensive renovation in the history of Princess Cruise Lines. And it's going to San Francisco, the latest free-agent signing in the cruise world. The ship-port marriage makes sense. Princess has had ships cruising out of San Francisco for 40 years, and the company's head office is just down the freeway, in Santa Clarita.

Said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises Executive Vice-President: "Our Bay Area passengers and travel agents have long been asking for more cruise options from San Francisco and our new year-round schedule with Grand Princess will now give them a great selection of itinerary choices."

The Grand Princess doesn't "move into its new digs" until next May. When it does, it will take passengers to Alaska in the summer, Hawaii in the winter and up and down the Pacific Coast (mostly down) the rest of the time. At a time when cruise lines are moving ships to Europe — incidentally, that's where the Grand Princess is now — and then from Europe to Asia, the world's next cruising hotspot, it's comforting to see a big "new" ship coming home.

And for the long haul, too.

The Grand Princess is the first ship to port year-round in San Francisco. Maybe more "free agents" will follow suit.

Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas
7 nights
January 7, 2013
Sydney (return): Noumea, Ile des Pins (New Caledonia)
Inside: $929
Cost per day: $132
www.royalcaribbean.com

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