'People like to cruise from Cape Liberty. They like to come to Bayonne. It's easy to get to,' said the director of Northeast port operations for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Ships are going out 'full, full, full,' said Hinderhofer, who credits the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises sales teams for that. But he likes to think Cape Liberty's convenience plays a part.
Newark Liberty International Airport is less than 10 miles away, and for the 35% to 40% of passengers who drive to the ship, most within a 90-mile radius, Cape Liberty offers 915 parking spaces and 425 overflow spaces—ample for three vessels a week. Parking costs $20 a day.
Passenger count climbed above half a million for the first time in 2016, to a record 509,306, and Cape Liberty will grow further this year with TUI Cruises' first sailings plus new calls by Vision of the Seas and one by Viking Sea—all in the autumn. Twenty-two summer cruises by Adventure of the Seas will nudge up the 2018 numbers.
Meanwhile, Anthem of the Seas continues its varied year-round deployment to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda and Canada/New England, and Celebrity Summit operates seasonally to Bermuda, the Caribbean and Canada/New England.
Hinderhofer would like to entice more ships to Cape Liberty. He hopes to add bollards and a bulkhead over the next couple years to ensure the versatility to accommodate other vessels. Digital signage can brand the terminal for each user.
His deck officer background gives a special perspective. 'Having worked on a cruise ship has allowed me to have the full understanding of what the vessel needs. This takes stress off the check-in and storing,' Hinderhofer said. 'Understanding what the guest is going to experience on board spills into the terminal, even including the hospitality. When you get on board, you're royalty. You're a celebrity. My prerogative is to create that feeling in the terminal.'
Besides ensuring embarkation is safe, efficient and orderly, Hinderhofer wants it to be fun, too. After all, people are going on vacation. He plays music on the terminal's Bose sound system and has talked to the longshoreman about their importance as the first contact for the cruise guests. Ground handler Intercruises does 'an amazing job,' he said, and the security team is 'hospitable.'
One of the few US citizens who's worked as a ship's officer in the foreign-flag cruise industry, Hinderhofer is a graduate of SUNY Maritime College - Fort Schuyler and a licensed master mariner who sailed for eight years with Celebrity Cruises, ultimately as staff captain. He was navigation officer aboard Celebrity Silhouette for its inaugural season and call at Cape Liberty.
Hinderhofer went shoreside in 2014 as port captain, marine/nautical manager with Celebrity in Miami. The Long Island native returned home to the Northeast two years ago to take over regional port operations for Royal Caribbean. Besides overseeing Cape Liberty, he assists the company's vessels on turnarounds at Baltimore, Boston, Montréal and Québec City, and provides support for transit calls in the region.
Fresh from the Cruise Canada/New England Symposium in Montréal, he's keen to help support the growth of the Canada/New England itinerary. New York is a member of the Cruise Canada/New England Alliance and Hinderhofer would like to do his part—even though, unlike other members, he works for a cruise line, not a port.
Another initiative is marketing Cape Liberty for events on non-cruise days. Up to 100,000 square feet of space in the flexible, open-plan 120,000-square-foot facility can host gatherings of up to 1,200 people.
Cruises, however, are the priority. 'I find myself very fortunate,' Hinderhofer said. 'I know how important it is to the company I work for that the ships turn on time. And to manage costs gives back to the customer in the form of a reduction in the ticket pricing.'
Hinderhofer's duties are about to expand. He's also going to become the operator for Royal Caribbean's futuristic Terminal A at PortMiami.