Spirit Cruises Inc., a company based in Norfolk, Va., will begin offering harbor cruises this spring from the south side of the Inner Harbor.
A 175-foot-long cruise ship, the Spirit of Baltimore, will take passengers on two-hour luncheon and three-hour dinner cruises. weekends, the ship will take two-hour midnight cruises.
"It's much more than a floating restaurant," said Douglas C. Porter, vice president of marketing for Spirit Cruises. "We are really a total entertainment experience."
Spirit Cruises will be competing with Harbor Cruises Ltd., a locally owned company that has operated two vessels, the Bay Lady and the Lady Baltimore, for the past 10 years.
Ric Irlbeck, manager of tourism and travel for Harbor Cruises, said he believes his company is ready for the competition. His vessels, which provide customers sit-down dinners and a wide variety of menus, often operate at full capacity on weekends.
Spirit Cruises will offer passengers buffet-style meals and entertainment by singing waiters and waitresses.
Live bands will play dance music as the ship tours the harbor. The vessel can also be hired for private outings such as weddings or business meetings.
The company chose Baltimore because of its "vibrant downtown waterfront," Mr. Porter said. "Baltimore has to be one of the most attractive waterfronts in the country."
The Spirit of Baltimore will operate from a berth at the former Key Highway shipyard at the foot of Federal Hill. The site is leased from HarborView Properties Development Co., which is building a marina and condominium complex just to the south.