When most people think of Baltimore, they picture the city’s Inner Harbor bustling with families visiting the National Aquarium, foodies in search of the freshest seafood — especially the popular blue crabs — and baseball fans headed to Camden Yards to cheer on the Orioles.
But mixed into the throngs of locals and tourists are quite a few cruise enthusiasts — as Maryland’s largest city has a port offering sailings as far north as Halifax, Nova Scotia, and as far south as the Caribbean island of Martinique. Here’s everything you need to know about cheap cruises from Baltimore.
1. Understand that there aren’t that many choices.
Cruises from Baltimore are available on Carnival Cruise Line — on Carnival Pride from April through December — and year-round on Royal Caribbean International’s Grandeur of the Seas.
2. Learn the itineraries.
There are four main cruise itineraries from Baltimore: five- and seven-night sailings to Bermuda, seven- to nine-night sailings to the Bahamas, and longer sailings north to New England and Canada and south to the Caribbean.
3. Know a good deal when you see one.
When trying to nab cheap cruise deals from Baltimore, start by calculating the per diem cost. The best deals are on seven- and nine-night Bahamas cruises, with inside cabins priced from $419 to $571 per person — just $60-$63 per night. But you can sometimes score a great promotional deal on 12-night cruises to the Caribbean — especially during summer and early fall — or by booking six to eight months out for winter sailings, when inside cabins sell for $869 per person (or just $72 per night).
4. Don’t rule out inside cabins.
The cheapest cruise deals are for interior cabins. Aside from a sea view and some square footage, you won’t give up much — and the savings will allow you to take excursions or splurge on a spa treatment. But do check ocean view and balcony fares as they can cost as little as $150-$200 more per person on some sailings.
5. Expect to cruise on an older ship.
Both 1,992-passenger Grandeur of the Seas, which launched in 1996, and 2,124-passenger Carnival Pride, which was inaugurated in 2002, are older ships. Although both have been refurbished with the addition of popular eateries and waterslides, they lack the polished design and wow-factor amenities of their mega ship siblings.
6. Factor in the airfare savings if you live nearby.
You may find cheaper cruise fares from Florida ports to the Bahamas or the Caribbean. But if you live within an eight-hour drive north or west of Baltimore — and about one-fifth of the U.S. population does — you’ll most likely save money cruising out of Baltimore and avoiding airfare costs, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
7. Look for deals with onboard credit.
That $419 fare per person for five nights might cover your cabin and three meals in the complimentary restaurants — but add a few cocktails a day, a shore excursion or two, and daily crew gratuities, and you’ll easily shell out that much on board. To offset your bar bill or the cost of shore excursions, some deals websites and cruise lines bundle cheap fares with onboard credit as an added incentive.
8. Gear up for a lively vacation.
Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises from Baltimore attract a wide array of passengers — from bargain-hunting families with young kids to party-at-the-pool singles to cruise-loving retired couples — but the common denominator is that these ships are known to be boisterous.
Looking for a low-key cruise that’s about quiet contemplation? These probably aren’t the sailings for you, and you’ll need to cruise out of a different port to find a better fit. However, if karaoke performed to a live band, line dancing by the pool, or a rowdy sports bar sound like your idea of fun, you’ll likely enjoy the upbeat atmosphere on these mainstream ships.