Cruise ship at Harborplace spurs city's tourism hopes

Future: The Maryland Port Administration expects to welcome at least 40 ships to the city by early fall.

May 02, 2001|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Reminiscent of ships that docked at the Inner Harbor's West Wall decades ago, the cv Cape May Light made an overnight call here last night on its inaugural voyage - the first of more than a dozen visits planned this season.

Local tourism officials hope not only that the visits will bring tourism dollars, but also that the presence of the red, white and blue luxury liner will bolster further the image of Baltimore as a tourist destination.

"It just solidifies the Inner Harbor as a leisure seaport and further underscores the fact that tourism is one of the most important and positive economic forces in Baltimore's economy right now," said Dan M. Lincoln, vice president of tourism and communications for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. "When other parts of our economy and industries may be struggling, tourism is expanding.

The Maryland Port Administration expects to welcome at least 40 ships to the city by early fall.

On Monday, about 2,700 European passengers arrived at Dundalk Passenger Terminal on the CostaAtlantica cruise ship for two days of touring Baltimore and the surrounding area.

The Cape May Light, decorated in a New England Federal and nautical decor, holds 224 passengers. It is owned by American Classic Voyages Co., the parent company of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co., which is the oldest U.S.-flag cruise line, tracing its roots to 1890.

Named after a classic American lighthouse, the $60 million Cape May Light was built to resemble classic coastal ships of the late 1800s.

"This is a new era for cruising in the United States," said James White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration. "U,S.-flag, U.S.-crewed and U.S.-owned cruising vessels were a rarity. Now the tides are turning, and we're excited to welcome this glorious cruise ship to the Inner Harbor."

This voyage for the Cape May Light originated in Alexandria, Va., with stops in Cambridge, Philadelphia, Annapolis and Jamestown, Va. The ship will leave on its maiden voyage from Norfolk, Va., on May 5. The ship returns to Baltimore on May 11 as part of regular cruises that explore the Chesapeake Bay and travel between Philadelphia and Norfolk.

The ship's spring, summer and fall itineraries also include cruises to the Great Lakes and the Canadian Maritime Provinces.

Here, in Baltimore, passengers from the Cape May Light will find themselves instantly immersed in the Inner Harbor.

"It's more business for the Inner Harbor, more tourists," said Ruth Fader, president of Baltimore Rent-A-Tour, who has organized tours in the city for Cape May Light passengers. "It's generating a lot more interest in Baltimore from people who probably wouldn't normally be coming here, because a lot of these people seem to be coming from the West Coast."

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