Celebrity Cruises will present the industry's first cruises from Jacksonville, Fla., to the Southern and Western Caribbean beginning this Fall, from the Jacksonville Port Authority's (JAXPORT's) Dames Point Marine Terminal. "We are thrilled to launch the industry's first sailings from Jacksonville," said Celebrity's Senior Vice President of Fleet Operations, Dietmar Wertanzl. "The city is strategically located for capturing new business; the southeastern United States offers a growing population base from which to attract our guests, and Jacksonville has the highway and port connectivity to appeal to an expanding number of travelers interested in drive-market options." JAXPORT officials report that they have worked to attract cruise ships to Jacksonville for years; their most recent effort began in 1999, co-sponsoring a cruise study with the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission (JEDC). The study revealed that Jacksonville had grown in the last 20 years to become a city with the basic criteria needed to attract cruise vessels, including good port facilities, population base, highway connections and airport capability. Following its six-month series of cruises from Jacksonville, Celebrity will assess the potential to base a ship there permanently in 2004. Celebrity's Zenith currently is sailing in South America, and will reprise its long-running series of seven-night cruises from New York to Bermuda this Spring and Summer before launching the new Caribbean cruises.