Baltimore cruises to reroute after bridge collapse pauses port traffic


Cruise lines are scrambling to make alternative plans and avoid the Port of Baltimore while officials suspend vessel traffic amid cleanup and rescue efforts around the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.

Three major cruise lines sail from Baltimore, though no ships were in port Tuesday morning. The next cruise was scheduled to depart Sunday, but its operator confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that the voyage would instead head out from Norfolk.

Amira M. Hairston, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore port, said in an email that the status of the upcoming cruise ship schedule is not yet known.

“At this time we do not know how long vessel traffic will be suspended. As soon as that is determined we will provide an update. Until then please keep those involved in your prayers,” Hairston wrote.

Royal Caribbean International’s Vision of the Seas left Saturday for a 12-night southern Caribbean cruise with plans to return April 4. The cruise line said in a statement Tuesday that it was “closely monitoring the situation, and our port logistics team is currently working on alternatives for Vision of the Seas’ ongoing and upcoming sailings.”

On Thursday, the cruise company said the current sailing would end in Norfolk.

“Our guests on board will be provided compensation and complimentary shuttle transportation as well as Wi-Fi and phone calls to adjust their travel arrangements,” Royal Caribbean said.

Upcoming cruises on April 4 and 12 will sail from Norfolk as well, and passengers will be compensated for the change. The ship was already scheduled for maintenance in the Bahamas after the April 12 cruise.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragedy and collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and extend our heartfelt prayers to all those impacted,” the company said.

Carnival Legend set off Sunday for a seven-day Bahamas cruise; the ship was scheduled to return March 31 and depart for its next sailing the same day. Instead of coming back to Baltimore, Carnival said late Tuesday, it will end its trip in Norfolk, and free buses will bring passengers back to Baltimore.

The ship’s next seven-day cruise will leave Norfolk and return to the port. In a news release, Carnival said it would temporarily move Baltimore operations to Norfolk “while Key Bridge rescue and cleanup efforts continue.”

“Our thoughts remain with the impacted families and first responders in Baltimore,” Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, said in a statement. “We appreciate the pledge made by President Biden today to dedicate all available resources to reopen Baltimore Harbor to marine traffic as soon as possible. As those plans are finalized, we will update our future cruise guests on when we will return home to Baltimore, but in the meantime, we appreciate the quick response and support from officials in Norfolk.”

Carnival Pride is supposed to start sailing from Baltimore next month, mostly to the Bahamas and eastern Caribbean.

Norwegian Cruise Line does not have cruises scheduled out of the port until later this year. American Cruise Lines, a U.S. river cruise operator, has Chesapeake Bay trips on small vessels scheduled from Baltimore starting in May. The cruise line said it will monitor developments “and make adjustments if needed.”

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said it was “deeply saddened” by the bridge collapse and was closely following the situation. “Right now, the most important thing to do is to allow the emergency workers to do their work,” the group wrote in a statement.

This year, 12 ships are scheduled to make a total of 115 calls at the Port of Baltimore, the industry association said. With room for roughly 2,000 or 2,100 passengers at double occupancy, most Baltimore-based ships are much smaller than the record-breaking behemoths that sail from Florida ports.

“Any adjustments to current cruise activity at the port will be announced as soon as available by the individual cruise lines,” CLIA said in its statement.

A news release issued last month by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s office said that more than 444,000 individuals cruised out of the Port of Baltimore last year, the most since 2012. The Maryland Port Administration said in a news release last year that the cruise industry generates nearly 400 jobs and $63 million in revenue every year for local businesses.

The port positions itself as a convenient option for cruising year-round, thanks to its location off Interstate 95 and plentiful parking. More than 40 million people live within a six-hour drive of the city, the port administration says.

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