Baltimore Lands Whopper of a Cruise

June 5, 2008
Baltimore, one of a handful of Mid-Atlantic cities that, despite a major investment in port facilities, has struggled to attract cruise lines, got a huge boost today when Carnival Cruise Lines announced it would position Carnival Pride there on a year-round basis.

The 88,500-ton, 2,124-passsenger ship is the largest ever to homeport year-round in a Mid-Atlantic regional port. Philadelphia and Norfolk are the other two Mid-Atlantic ports.

Beginning September 13, 2009, Carnival Pride will offer two different seven-night itineraries. What it's dubbing "Exotic Eastern Caribbean" will call at Grand Turk, in the Turks and Caicos chain of islands, Half Moon Cay, which is Holland America's private Bahamian isle, and the Bahamas' Freeport. What we're dubbing the "not so exotic" Eastern Caribbean trip visits Port Canaveral (gateway to Orlando) and both Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas.

In a statement, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley notes that "year-round cruising will allow the 40 million people that live within a six-hour drive of Baltimore to look beyond the traditional cruising seasons and sail throughout the year."

Still, Baltimore has struggled to attract cruise ship turnarounds over the past few years. The city, which is actually located on the Patapsco River, which leads to the Chesapeake Bay, is not directly on the Atlantic coast. The 12-hour trip to the Atlantic, both coming and going, has to be worked into itineraries.

This summer and fall, for instance, Baltimore is home to Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas and NCL's Norwegian Majesty. But both ships are only sailing a series of voyages from the city -- rather than being based there for the entire season.

Carnival Pride, part of Carnival's delightful Spirit class of ships, offers a terrific blend of big-ship features in a mid-sized environment. "Where can you find the artwork of Raphael, DaVinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo, and the architectural details of ancient Greece, Byzantine empires, Renaissance Italy, Beaux Arts France and Victorian England all under the same roof?" writes Jana Jones, a Cruise Critic contributor who recently reviewed the ship (read more here).

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief