19 Caribbean cruises added for Baltimore

Celebrity line alters its 2002 schedule in aftermath of Sept. 11

November 01, 2001|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's cruise ship business got a major boost yesterday with the announcement by Celebrity Cruises Inc. that it will offer 19 round-trip cruises from Baltimore to the Caribbean next year.

Celebrity said the series of 10- and 11-night cruises will be aboard a five-star ship with the capacity for 1,870 passengers and will begin in the spring.

"It's one of many changes we're making since the attacks of Sept. 11," said Elizabeth A. Jakeway, a spokeswoman for Miami-based Celebrity Cruises. "We've redeployed ships to markets that primarily focus on drive-in business."

After the terrorist attacks, the cruise line diverted one of its ships, the Zenith, from New York to Baltimore for weekly sailings to Bermuda, Jakeway said. Those sailings ended this week, she said.

But officials at Celebrity, whose parent company is Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., have been happy with the history and culture available to their passengers in Baltimore, she said.

"We've had a lot of inquiries about bringing the ships closer to home," said Ares Michaelides, senior vice president of Celebrity's marketing and brand planning in Miami. "The events of (Sept. 11) have pushed consumers to want to stay closer to home. People still want to travel. But they feel the proximity of the vessel is a concern, and we want to take that concern away."

Yesterday's announcement comes on the heels of last month's bankruptcy of American Classic Voyages, which ended its service here with the Cape May Light. That company, also based in Miami, cited the chill in tourism as a result of the terrorist attacks.

The Cape May Light had visited Baltimore six times in the spring and was scheduled to stop in Baltimore five more times this fall.

Celebrity has committed to being in Baltimore through next year, Michaelides said.

Cruise line officials are optimistic that the ship's indoor pool will erase cold weather in Baltimore as an issue for those cruising early or late in the season.

"Celebrity's reputation speaks for itself," said Kate Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Port Administration. "This is a first-rate company and a leader in the industry. It's great to see Baltimore on its list of ports of call."

During the past three years, the number of visitors coming to Baltimore by ship has grown as more cruise ships stop here, local tourism officials said yesterday, although exact numbers were not immediately available.

"This is a continuation of the expansion of the cruise lines that are coming into Baltimore," said Dan M. Lincoln, vice president of tourism and communications for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. "It's a whole new market for us that we really want to capitalize on."

Celebrity is accepting bookings for cruises aboard the Galaxy, which begin in March and go through October 2002.

The 10-night cruises are to embark from Baltimore on April 5 and 26, May 27, June 7 and 28, July 19, Aug. 9 and 30, Sept. 20 and Oct. 11, with ports of call in Key West, Fla.; Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City; and Cococay and Nassau, Bahamas. Fares begin at $799 per person, double occupancy.

The 11-night cruises will depart Baltimore on March 25, April 15, May 6, June 17, July 8 and 29, Aug. 19, Sept. 30 and Oct. 21, with ports of call in Charleston, S.C.; St. Thomas and St. Martin, West Indies; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Nassau. Fares begin at $849 per person, double occupancy.

Celebrity Cruises boasts the youngest fleet of any major cruise line. The fleet will consist of nine ships once the Constellation makes its maiden voyage next year.

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