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Will Wilmington support cruise ships?

In a nutshell, Wilmington already supports small cruise ships, though the city has a challenging time accommodating larger vessels.

American Cruise Lines, which operates a half-dozen inland cruises between Baltimore and Charleston, S.C., stops in Wilmington several times a year. Typically, cruise lines favor docking at nearby tourist attractions for its passengers to disembark and enjoy, making downtown Wilmington a popular docking station because of the ease of accessibility.

Many of the cruise ships that include Wilmington in their itineraries are typically 50–100 passenger ships, said Connie Nelson, a spokeswoman for Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“(Bigger cruise lines) dock at the N.C. State Port because they’re not able to be accommodated downtown due to the river depth,” Nelson said. “When docking at the state port, (cruise lines) have to arrange shuttles from the state ports to the attractions.”

Nelson said the Cape Fear River would have to be deeper to accommodate larger cruise ships that can carry up to several thousand passengers.

Steve Jackson, senior manager of port operations for the Port of Wilmington, said a ship’s height is ultimately its limiting factor. A power line that stretches for several miles limits visiting cruise ships to be 164 feet or lower — measuring from the water line to the highest point of the ship, which is often a ship’s communication tower — for it to safely pass underneath.

Jackson said several years ago, Carnival Cruise, based in Florida, was interested in disembarking in Wilmington. But its ships measured 190–210 feet above the waterline and would not have been able to pass underneath the power line safely.

Nelson said even small ships must decide where to disembark its passengers based on the availability of space. This spring, American Cruise Lines will dock at the Port City Marina instead of downtown Wilmington’s docks because of construction on the River Walk.

Scott Czechlewski, spokesman for the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, said that although cruise ships do slightly help with the local economy when passengers visit local businesses, “it’s kind of a mixed bag.”

“Most (passengers) are getting their meals on board so they’re not eating in local restaurants,” he said.

American is the only cruise line scheduled to visit Wilmington this year, according to Nelson.

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One Response to “ Will Wilmington support cruise ships?”

  1. On April 30, 2016 at 12:44 pm jim beckner wrote:

    Seems like someone should take an interest in making the power lines higher or putting them under the water! Not, only for the sake of cruise ships for the port is going to be a factor for the future of the state port. Maybe we should get out Gov. Office looking into this issue for a plan for the future!

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