Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Carnival Back with Bigger, Better Ship, the Fascination; the Cruise Business Returns Saturday and Expects to Help Jacksonville's Economy with Hospitality Business

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Carnival Back with Bigger, Better Ship, the Fascination; the Cruise Business Returns Saturday and Expects to Help Jacksonville's Economy with Hospitality Business

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVIN TURNER

Carnival Cruise Lines ship Celebration sailed from Jacksonville for the last time in April, creating a lull in cruise ship traffic from the city. On Saturday, that lull ends with the arrival of a larger ship, Carnival's Fascination.

"It's an exciting day," said Tony Orsini, senior director for the Jacksonville Port Authority's cruise operations and business development. "It's the next step of the cruise business in Jacksonville."

Fascination also marks an upgrade, since it's 38 percent larger at 2,052 passengers than the Celebration's 1,486 passengers, Orsini said.

"Once you pass 2,000 passengers, you've crossed the line into the big ship category," he said. "Galveston, Tampa and New Orleans all started the same way. They solicited the cruise lines, and got a smaller ship. They kept that ship until the market demanded a bigger ship."

Lyndsay Rossman, director of corporate communications for Visit Jacksonville, said the cruise line is showing confidence in Jacksonville.

"Carnival has definitely invested in bringing in a larger ship because they know they will be able to fill the ship," she said. "That means more economic impact for the city from people coming to town. From what we've seen from the Celebration, we were over 100 percent capacity with each sailing."

The next step in growth after the Fascination is to add a second ship to the port, Orsini said. And he's in talks with other cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line, he said.

"I am negotiating with one of them and am very close to an agreement for one of their ships," he said, adding that he should know the outcome of those talks in six to eight weeks.

Orsini said that of the estimated 170,000 passengers who will sail on the Fascination in a year, about a third will be locals and the rest will arrive from other areas.

"We're exposing the city to hundreds of thousands of people who would have no other reason to come to Jacksonville. …

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