21 cruise sailings from Baltimore this year

Economic impact for city and state could be $8 million

The port

May 11, 2000|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Baltimore officially kicked off its cruise season yesterday with the Crown Dynasty's departure for Bermuda, launching a year that will more than double the 1999 sailings from the port of Baltimore.

"Baltimore is becoming a destination," said Harriett Sagel, manager of tourism development for the Maryland Port Administration. "We're very excited."

There will be 21 cruises out of Baltimore this year, compared with 10 last year, Sagel said. Those cruises are expected to generate an economic impact of $8 million for the city and state, according to estimates by the port administration.

The 800-passenger Crown Dynasty recently underwent $1.5 million in renovations designed to steep passengers in the ambience and decor of Bermuda, from placing Bermudan artwork and ceramics on board, to naming each suite after a Bermuda flower and each deck after a Bermuda parish.

The inaugural cruise on the $106 million, nine-deck ship is a first in several respects. It is the first time the ship has been to Baltimore. For Bermuda, it marks a new business venture designed to boost tourism to the island, which already plays host to about 6,000 cruise passengers a week.

Baltimore will serve as test market for a new system that will initially designate 100 berths for passengers who will spend at least three nights off the cruise ship in Bermuda hotels, spreading the economic benefit of the cruise industry to the island's hoteliers.

That group will then fly back to Baltimore. Those passengers will be replaced aboard ship by a group that will have flown to the island.

"We've been trying to capture the cruise line visitor and get them to come back," said Richard Calderon, director of tourism for Bermuda. "By experiencing our hotels, they have the opportunity to see what is offered."

David H. Allen, minister of tourism for Bermuda, said he expects the idea, which has been tried a few other places, to revolutionize the way cruises are done.

"There's been a feeling that cruise lines take away the hotel business," he said. "I think you can use them as an introductory offer."

Allen estimates that the additional nights cruise passengers will spend in island hotels will have an economic impact of about $5 million this year. The number of berths devoted to that type of passenger will be increased to 200 in two years, he said.

The venture also would likely appeal to European tourists who might want to fly to Baltimore, cruise to Bermuda and then fly back, perhaps spending some time in Baltimore at one end of the trip, he said.

"I think Baltimore could grow its tourism from Europe," Allen said. "There's a huge potential there."

The island also is looking to extend its season, drawing cruises as late as November and starting as early as March, and it is looking to Baltimore, which has an advantage over Boston or New York by being farther south, he said.

The 10 Crown cruises are being done through Apple Vacations, which has leased the ship for the summer.

Didion World Cruises of Washington has chartered the 1,100-passenger SS Rembrandt from Premier Cruise Lines for five cruises starting in July. Also scheduled for this year are two cruises on the Rotterdam, operated by the Holland America Line. There also will be four port calls by cruise ships, allowing passengers to disembark for tours.

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