NEW YORK - Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, began a weeklong tour of the United States on Tuesday - a trip the British press predicted would cause little excitement on the other side of the Atlantic.
They arrived at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on a private chartered jet and were met by Britain's U.S. ambassador, Sir David Manning and his wife, Catherine.
The royal couple was headed straight for a visit to the World Trade Center site, then to a dedication of a memorial garden to British victims of the Sept. 11 attacks at nearby Hanover Square. They also will visit Washington, New Orleans and San Francisco.
The tour, which is designed to celebrate ties between Britain and America, is the first official overseas trip for the 56-year-old heir to the throne and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, since they married in April.
"The trip has been dismissed as a 'royal bore' by Americans," The Daily Mail newspaper said Tuesday, quoting a headline in USA Today.
At Hanover Square - named for King George I of Hanover - a cadre of law enforcement officers stood near a line of police barricades more than two hours before the royal couple was due to arrive Tuesday. Several onlookers gathered around the square, many of them on cigarette or coffee breaks from nearby office towers.
"It's sort of like an ongoing saga, one of the longest-running dramatic TV series," Mark Abrams, an executive of Guardian Life Insurance Co., said of the intrigue surrounding the royal family.
Nancy Hodl, a 59-year-old retired secretary, and her husband had just visited the trade center site for the first time Tuesday when they walked by Hanover Square to discover the much-anticipated royal arrival. The New Jersey couple had watched Prince Charles' interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" over the weekend and said they were impressed with his vision for the future.
"He really does care about people, but a lot of people think, 'Oh, he's a Prince, what does he know about us, what does he care?'" Hodl said.
Royal aides hope the prince's first official tour of the United States since 1994 won't be eclipsed by memories of a visit in 1985 - when a radiant Diana danced with John Travolta at a White House dinner.
But British papers took note of a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, which found 59 percent of respondents saying they were "not at all interested" in the visit, 22 percent were "not too interested," 13 percent were "somewhat interested" and 6 percent were "very interested."
Nineteen percent said they would like to meet Charles and Camilla in person, compared to 31 percent who, in an ABC News/Washington Post poll in 1985, said they would like to meet Charles and Diana.
Gallup, based in Princeton, N.J., interviewed 1,008 people 18 and older in the United States by telephone on Oct. 21-23. Gallup said the survey had a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
The Guardian newspaper said Tuesday that Charles and Camilla were visiting America determined to win over an American public that appeared to have "absolutely no interest in the eight-day royal visit."
The Daily Mirror's New York correspondent also wrote that most Americans had no idea who Camilla was. The paper said its reporter showed a picture of the duchess to passers-by in Times Square, but many guessed that it was Nancy Reagan, Madonna, Queen Elizabeth II or the late romantic novelist Barbara Cartland.
The prince's office says the trip is intended to recognize "the importance of the relationship between the two countries and their common bonds and shared traditions."
It is also part of a careful palace plan to win acceptance for the duchess, long reviled in the British press - and among Diana-philes - as the woman who broke up the royal romance. "There were three of us in that marriage," Diana told a television reporter in 1995.
Charles and Diana divorced in 1996; Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris the following year.