As cruise lines scramble to provide more drive-to, flight-free options for travelers during difficult economic times, Baltimore has landed another major year-round addition. Less than a year after Carnival announced it would homeport Carnival Pride year-round in the Maryland port in 2009, Royal Caribbean has revealed that it will follow suit with the 80,700-ton, 2,252-passenger Enchantment of the Seas, which will offer cruises to the Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean and Canada & New England starting in 2010. Enchantment of the Seas will become the largest ship ever to homeport out of Baltimore, a port within driving distance for tens of millions of people.

Enchantment's first roundtrip Baltimore cruise will depart on June 18, 2010. The eight-night Canada & New England voyage includes stops in Portland, Maine; Saint John, New Brunswick; Halifax; Bar Harbor; and Boston. During the following summer and fall months, Enchantment will sail five-night Bermuda cruises, featuring two-night stops at Kings Wharf; nine-night Eastern Caribbean cruises with stops in San Juan, St. Thomas, the Dominican Republic's Samana and Labadee, RCI's private island; and three nine-night Canada & New England cruises, offering the same itinerary as the eight-nighter, but with an added sea day.

Royal Caribbean will announce Enchantment of the Seas' winter and spring roundtrip Baltimore itineraries at a later date.

The move by RCI significantly boosts the itineraries and berths currently offered out of Baltimore by its smaller 74,140-ton, 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas, which spends less than half the year sailing out of Maryland (summer and fall). Enchantment of the Seas boasts Royal Caribbean signatures like Chops Grill steakhouse, Boleros Latin lounge and an expansive sun deck. For more about the ship, read our review.

Other lines, including Carnival and Celebrity, have already announced new placements in Northeast homeports. Beginning September 13, 2009, the 88,500-ton, 2,124-passsenger Carnival Pride will offer two different seven-night Eastern Caribbean itineraries out of Baltimore. Celebrity Mercury will sail Eastern and Southern Caribbean cruises out of Charm City from late 2009 through early 2010.

Cruised out of Baltimore? How was the experience (parking, terminal, operations)? Share your thoughts on the message boards.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor