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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Baltimore

South Locust Point Cruise Terminal, 2001 E. McComas St.

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DISTANCE FROM D.C.: 40 miles.

DRIVE TIME: 52 minutes. From the Beltway, take Interstate 95 north. Take the Key Highway/Fort McHenry exit (Exit 55) to East McComas Street.

PARKING: $10 a day. The lot is 100 feet from the terminal (some spaces are farther away, but all are within walking distance).

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Round-trip fares from Union Station on Amtrak start at $28; the cruise terminal is a 15-minute cab ride from Baltimore's Penn Station. Greyhound charges $25 round trip; the cruise terminal is a six-minute cab ride from the bus station.

THE TERMINAL: It was an old warehouse for wood and paper until last year, when it was converted, at a cost of $13 million, into the present cruise terminal. Carpeted, with stylish recessed lighting, it's a handsome facility, spacious and comfortable, festooned throughout with Maryland flags. Large black-and-white photos adorn the walls, each depicting an aspect of the city's portside history. (Baltimore was the first stop for millions of immigrants coming to America in the 19th and 20th centuries, as one beautiful photo shows.)

The day we visited, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' Grandeur of the Seas was receiving and depositing passengers for one of the port's five-night Bermuda cruises. There was an impressive security presence: Police cruisers were visible from the moment we exited I-95, and passengers passed through multiple checkpoints on the way to the parking lot.

THE CRUISES: This month, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas has a five-night Bermuda cruise (from $699) and a nine-night Caribbean cruise (from $1,009). Next month, the same ship has a five-night Bermuda cruise (from $649), a 13-night Caribbean cruise (from $799) and nine-night Eastern Caribbean cruises (from $1,009).

In April, May and June, the Grandeur sails to Bermuda (a five-night cruise from $699). In May, the ship also has nine-night cruises to the Caribbean (from $949).

In September, the Grandeur sails to Bermuda (five-night cruises from $649) and has a nine-night cruise to New England and Canada (from $929); this cruise also sails in October 2008. Also that month, five-night Bermuda cruises start at $649, and an 11-night Caribbean cruise starts at $799.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Majesty offers cruises to Bermuda in June, July and August, with prices starting at $669 for six nights and $799 for seven.

HOTELS: There aren't any hotels in the immediate neighborhood, but less than five minutes away is the Best Western Hotel & Conference Center (5625 O'Donnell St., 410-633-9500, http://www.bestwestern.com), where hotel packages that feature free parking for cruisers start at $139. At the Inner Harbor, 10 minutes away by car, there are many hotels, including the Hyatt Regency Baltimore (300 Light St., 410-528-1234, http://www.hyatt.com), where rooms start at $219, and the Sheraton Inner Harbor (300 S. Charles St., 410-962-8300, http://www.starwoodhotels.com), where rooms start at $269.

WHAT'S NEARBY: The cruise terminal is in an area called South Locust Point, an industrial waterfront that's up and coming as a residential neighborhood, with rowhouses being redeveloped. Ten minutes by car is the trendy waterfront neighborhood of Canton, popular with singles and young professionals, and there you'll find lots of drinking and dining establishments, particularly on O'Donnell Square. Baltimore's Inner Harbor is 2 1/2 miles away, with waterfront shops, restaurants and other attractions, including the National Aquarium (501 E. Pratt St., 410-576-3800, http://www.aqua.org) and Maryland Science Center (601 Light St., 410-685-5225, http://www.mdsci.org). Nearby Federal Hill is home to the American Visionary Art Museum, which features noteworthy works by self-taught artists (800 Key Hwy., 410-244-1900, http://www.avam.org).

INFORMATION: 410-385-4755, http://www.cruisemaryland.com.


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