Baltimore attracts another cruise line in post-9/11 boom

Visit of Carnival's liner is among 40 expected in 2002, up from 13 in 2001

October 31, 2002|By Paul Adams | Paul Adams,SUN STAFF

Carnival became the latest cruise line to sail from Baltimore yesterday, continuing an industrywide push to entice passengers by cutting fares and bringing ships closer to major metropolitan areas.

The 960-foot Carnival Legend sailed into port yesterday morning to begin a six-day cruise from Baltimore to Bermuda. The ship, which joined Carnival Cruise Lines' fleet in August, will return twice next year as part of an itinerary that includes a series of voyages to Bermuda from New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

"I think it will be a very regular thing for years to come," said Bob Dickinson, president and chief operating officer of Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines.

State economic development officials have sought to attract more cruise ships here in hopes of bringing tourists to the Inner Harbor and stimulating job growth on the waterfront.

Those efforts have accelerated as a result of a building boom in the industry combined with the aftereffects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

With many turned off by the hassles of air travel, cruise lines have dedicated more ships to ports in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, saving passengers in those cities the trouble of flying to Florida to board a ship bound for the Caribbean.

The port of Baltimore is to have 40 calls from cruise ships this year, up from 13 in 2001. That includes ships that just visited the port for a day on their way to other destinations, as well as those that originated and ended their trips in Baltimore.

Combined, the cruises are to average 2,000 passengers each and pump an estimated $70 million into the Maryland economy this year, said Gene Bailey, deputy executive director for the Maryland Port Administration.

Celebrity Cruises Inc. led the way. The Miami-based line offered 29 cruises this season from Baltimore to various ports of call in the Caribbean, New England and Canada.

Despite a difficult year for the cruise industry, Celebrity has said its gamble in Baltimore paid off and it plans to return next season with a full schedule of 25 sailings.

Carnival has less ambitious plans for Baltimore, but is targeting the East Coast in general as it considers where to send its newest luxury liners.

Next year Carnival plans to offer 50 sailings from New York alone. "It's clear that the Northeast has been at least initially after 9/11 ... reluctant to fly relative to the rest of the country," Dickinson said.

Reaching the Caribbean from places like New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore is made easier by using newer, faster ships like the Carnival Legend, which can reach a speed of 22 knots, Dickinson said.

The Carnival Legend is the newest of Carnival's three "Spirit-class" ships, which can accommodate 2,667 passengers and cost $375 million to build.

At 88,500 tons, it is smaller than Carnival's 110,000-ton super liners that tower 207 feet above the water and carry up to 2,974 passengers. However, it is the largest of the cruise ships to visit Baltimore this season, port officials said.

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