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Carnival signs 5-year extension with Port of Baltimore

Carnival Cruise Lines has agreed to a five-year extension with the Port of Baltimore to run cruises from the port year round. The agreement announced Monday is effective Aug. 31, after the present two-year contract expires.

The first two years of the agreement are guaranteed, and there are three one-year options. Carnival’s weekly cruise lasts for seven days, sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean.

Before this agreement was made, Carnival was committed to providing cruises from Baltimore through the first quarter of 2012.

“Carnival’s launch of Baltimore’s first year-round cruise program in April 2009 has been a tremendous success, and more than 115,000 guests annually are coming into Baltimore to sail on the Carnival Pride,” Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s CEO, said in a statement. “We are very pleased to continue our outstanding relationship with the port and city of Baltimore.”

Richard Powers, director of marketing for the Maryland Port Administration, said the discussions for the agreement had been ongoing, and the deal came as no surprise to port officials.

“Our cruise business is still very strong, and Carnival is extremely happy here,” Powers said.

The Port of Baltimore will have 112 cruises in 2011, according to the Maryland Port Administration. In 2010, more than 210,000 people sailed on 91 cruises from the port’s Cruise Maryland Terminal. That was a record for the number of passengers coming through the city in one year. More than 167,000 passengers traveled on 81 cruises from Baltimore in 2009.

Powers said he expects 2011 will be another record-breaking year for number of passengers that cruised through Baltimore.

“It leads us to believe in a real value of cruising,” he said. “That people still want to take a vacation in tough economic times.”

The Carnival Pride and Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas liners operate year-round at the port. Royal Caribbean also offers trips to Bermuda, New England and Canada.

Royal Caribbean is not contractually bound with the port, but reserves berths two years in advance, Powers said. The company has requested berths through the next two years, which is usual for the industry, he said.

The Carnival Pride has four swimming pools, 16 lounges and bars, a 1,200-seat theater, a spa and several dining venues. With ships having an inclusive package of entertainment, dining and lodging, consumers looking for an economically smart vacation have been turning to cruises, Powers said.

Baltimore ranks sixth on the East Coast and 14th nationally for cruise passengers, according to the MPA.