While most cruise line spokesmen indicate that they would like a nicer cruise terminal, almost all agree that it is not the overriding factor in deciding departure port locations.
James Haller, director of deployment and itinerary planning for Royal Caribbean, the only cruise line to sign the letter to Ehrlich, said in an e-mail that Baltimore "is a great market . . . with a very cooperative port." He added: "We would like to see improvements in the infrastructure, but we are working from a long-term perspective and have been pleased with the success of our operations from Baltimore to date and have strong expectations for our Caribbean and Bermuda sailings in 2005."
Several cruise spokesmen said they were only experimenting with Baltimore last year and never had plans to continue the service in 2005. Most said they had a good experience in Baltimore and may return when they have a new ship to spare.
Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said the line always intended to change its schedules in 2005. "We had a new ship, the Miracle, which allowed us to try a variety of one-time experimental programs, including cruising from Baltimore," she said. "It was a port we wanted to try out. It was very successful. At some point we will likely be back in Baltimore. But our itineraries for 2005 were set a couple of years in advance." The Carnival Miracle will now sail out of Tampa.
Heather Krasnow, spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line, said, "Our decision to move doesn't have anything to do with the port facilities. We don't home-port a lot of our ships year-round. We decided to do a longer season out of Philadelphia. But that's not to say we won't go back to Baltimore."
Elizabeth Jakeway, spokeswoman for Celebrity, sister company to Royal Caribbean, said, "We've enjoyed several good seasons there, but we have found a great opportunity to cruise from Galveston offering us a new geographic region and the opportunity to expand our popular Panama Canal cruises."
Holland America spokesman Erik Elvejord said in an e-mail that, while the Rotterdam did several cruises out of Baltimore and Philadelphia in 2004, it was a trial run "looking at the potential for the future." Cruises from Baltimore went well, Elvejord said, and, when new ships are added to the line in 2006, the line will determine whether it makes sense to return.
White and other coalition members say it will be easier to woo the cruise lines back to Baltimore if better cruise pier facilities are built. "There's a new cruise terminal in Norfolk and one in Bayonne [N.J.]," he said. "Where are you going to go if you have a choice? We don't want to be the odd man out."
But it remains unclear whether the state will put up the money, especially in the current budget cycle. Castleman said it is attempting to locate a site for a new terminal and to identify funding sources.
"We've studied this issue for decades," White said. "We want them to include money in the budget and to move forward."