Monday, September 29, 2008

Cruises come (back) to Baltimore

Years ago, cruise lines virtually abandoned Baltimore. It was more efficient, they argued, to route passengers to a few major terminals than to maintain operations at half a dozen smaller ports, the same strategy used by the legacy airlines during the days of regulation in building hub-and-spoke flight routes.

Today, the hub-centric airlines find themselves competing with a wave of low-cost carriers whose advantage comes in part from a greater focus on direct flights. Similarly, cruise lines are rethinking their own "hub mentality" in light of a trend that they call "homeporting:" passengers, it seems, are more likely to take a cruise when they can drive to the port rather than flying.

"Next year, more than 60 cruises are scheduled to depart Baltimore - about double the offerings this year." One particularly impressive itinerary? Celebrity's repositioning cruise from San Diego to Baltimore via the Panama Canal, with stops in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Columbia. Prices start as low as $1499 for the 17-day voyage.

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