Another cruise line coming to Locust Pt.

Norwegian to return to Baltimore to offer Bermuda trips in '08

May 15, 2007|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,Sun reporter

A second cruise line will call on the new South Locust Point terminal at the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore next year, officials said yesterday - just a day after the launch of this year's season.

Norwegian Cruise Lines will begin offering 10 seven-night cruises to Bermuda in 2008. The move returns the company to Baltimore after it left four years ago. That will almost offset losses on another line, Royal Caribbean International, which will cut in half the number of cruises it offers from here next year.

Officials hope a second line will help steady the business that has suffered ups and downs since 2001, when ships were detoured from New York to other East Coast cities and cruise lines discovered that cruise vacationers liked driving to smaller ports nearby.

Baltimore's business peaked at 60 cruises in 2004, but officials at three of five lines, including Norwegian, said they wouldn't return the next season. In an effort to lure back some business, port officials opened a dedicated $13 million cruise terminal last year away from the industrial bustle of its Dundalk Marine Terminal. But the state is host to just one cruise line this year with 29 departures, and that number would have declined to 15 next year if not for Norwegian.

Some hard negotiating went on between Norwegian and the port to bring the line back, said F. Brooks Royster III, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, which oversees the port. "But they really saw the opportunity. [Norwegian] is shifting a lot of vessel calls to freshen up their itinerary."

Cruising has become more popular than ever, with 12.5 million people expected to cruise this year, compared with 12 million last year, according to Cruise Lines International, a trade organization. By the end of the this year, 88 new ships will have been added to the lineup serving U.S. markets since 2000.

Norwegian is returning to Baltimore to bolster its popular Bermuda lineup next year. It already sails there from the East Coast ports of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston, S.C.

"[Norwegian] will offer its largest Bermuda deployment ever in 2008," Andy Stuart, the cruise line's executive vice president of marketing, sales and passenger services, said in a statement. "We ... look forward to utilizing the city's new 60,000-square-foot cruise terminal."

Royster said the port is constantly in talks with other lines to bring more cruises to the state. But ever more ports are doing the same. That competition means one port's gain is usually another's loss. Baltimore, for example, will get Norwegian Cruise Lines' ship from Charleston.

Also, Royster said that some foreign ports such as Bermuda tell lines when they can call. In Royal Caribbean's case, it couldn't make the journey to Bermuda from Baltimore on schedule so the Grandeur of the Seas will move to a closer port in Norfolk, Va., halfway through 2008. That will cut in half the carrier's number of cruises from Baltimore.

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