- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

Royal Caribbean International is making waves in Baltimore. Next year, the Miami cruise line will add a ship — the 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas — to sail out of Baltimore.

The company’s Celebrity Cruises set sail from Baltimore for the first time last year. The success of more than 20 Baltimore sailings on the 1,870-passenger Galaxy in 2002 led to the decision to add another ship to the Baltimore lineup.

Officials say Baltimore has become an attractive departure point for travelers, mainly because it is in a strong driving market, which includes the Washington area.

Grandeur of the Seas’ inaugural Baltimore cruise — an 11-night trip to the Caribbean — is set for May 10 next year. Royal Caribbean has not finalized Grandeur’s 2004 Baltimore season, but plans call for about 20 cruises out of the port to both the Caribbean and the Canada/New England area.

Over the past few years, Royal Caribbean has nearly quadrupled the number of ports it uses to about 25 across the country. Passengers used to have to fly into one of a few cities such as Miami or San Juan where they could board the ships. But the company began adding more ports after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when Americans became wary of traveling away from home.

“We wanted to make ourselves more accessible to the large population,” said Adam M. Goldstein, executive vice president of brand operations for Royal Caribbean. “Now people can drive to the ship instead of fly.”

After the terrorist attacks, Royal and Celebrity cut back on the number of ships sailing to Europe. As a result, the company brought one of the ships to Baltimore to set sail on Caribbean cruises instead.

Galaxy made its first 11-night Baltimore sailing in March 2002. That year, the ship had 43,000 passengers on its more than 20 trips.

This year, Galaxy will have 25 sailings from Baltimore and will offer trips in spring and fall 2004.

High Five

Five Guys Burgers and Fries has agreements for 47 franchise units to open in Maryland, Virginia and the District. Two additional company-owned locations are under construction in Alexandria and Stafford, Va.

The Northern Virginia hamburger chain, which has five company-owned restaurants, announced plans last year to expand through franchising and likely will have at least 50 locations open in the next three years.

The first franchise restaurant is expected to open in the District by August. By the end of the year, Five Guys is slated to have 15 to 18 new stores in the region.

Tourism budgets drop

States plan to spend a projected $554.2 million for travel and tourism development and promotion this fiscal year — an 8 percent drop from fiscal 2002, says a survey by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).

“Like every other sector of the travel and tourism industry, state tourism offices are feeling the economic pinch,” said Patty Hubbard, vice president of national councils for TIA.

Hawaii remains the leader in tourism office spending with a projected budget of $56 million, despite having a 21 percent decrease in funding compared with the previous fiscal year.

Virginia rounded out the top 10 with a $15 million budget — a 26.7 percent drop from its $20.5 million for fiscal 2002.

Maryland plans to spend $13.4 million in fiscal 2003 — a 2.9 percent drop from last year.

TIA did not receive a survey response from the District.

Got news? Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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