If you’re planning on leaving for your cruise vacation from Baltimore in Maryland, the Baltimore Cruise Terminal will be your point of departure. Knowing what you need to do after your plane lands to get to the terminal on time will allow you to start your vacation the right way and return with a plan to get you and your family back home safely.
This guide will help you use the terminal to begin and end your vacation to Baltimore’s historic downtown and the cruise terminal. There are many aspects of embarkation and debarkation that people who book a cruise may forget to schedule or consider. These include the time and method of transportation from the nearest airport, your ride out of the terminal on your way back, what sites are in the area to keep you occupied on extra days, and what exactly you and your family are going to do with your luggage.
All of these things can take time out of your cramped embarkation schedule to figure out. In the worst-case scenario, not knowing the terminal services or the transportation you need to book to get there from the airport might cost you your whole cruise.
Here are 9 things to know about the Baltimore Cruise Terminal to make your vacation start and end the right way, free up your schedule for some breathing room in terms of transportation and luggage check-in, and keep you and your family from stressing out on what should be the start of the most relaxing day you’ve ever had.
History of the Port of Baltimore
Before getting into what you as a vacationer should do to take full advantage of the Baltimore Cruise Terminal, here is a brief history of the port and a few statistics to let you know what you’re getting into in terms of the size and legitimacy of this popular embarkation point.
The Baltimore Cruise Terminal at the Port of Baltimore is located 40 miles northeast of Washington D.C. The port was established in 1729 and named for Lord Baltimore of the Irish House of Lords. Quickly becoming established as a trading site for tobacco, and later for industrial developments in steel and automobiles, the advantageous location of the port made it an immediate success.
The first naval vessel in the new United States, The Constellation, was launched from the Port of Baltimore in 1797. Today, the port is a shipping hub for automobiles, a major health services center, and an attractive cruise departure destination for many cruise lines.
Cruises from this terminal’s homeport sail to Bermuda, Canada, New England, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean with cruise liners from several major lines, including Carnival, American Cruise Lines, and Royal Caribbean International.
Procedures and tips for passengers to any cruise line in terms of airports, taxis, arrival times, and baggage requirements will be covered below.
Hundreds of thousands of people embark from this terminal every year. As one of the oldest ports continuously in operation in the entire Western Hemisphere, the rich history of the Port of Baltimore proves that you’ve chosen right by supporting its venerated cruise institution for your family vacation.
Of course, before you can take advantage of the terminal, you have to know how to get there after you arrive.
If you’re arriving by plane to connect with the Baltimore Cruise Port, you will probably arrive by way of the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), located 10 miles away from the terminal.
Even though that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s a hassle to prepare for when you have no car and a ton of luggage. That’s what these airport and transportation tips are intended to guide you through.
This airport is one of New England’s busiest transportation centers (and the 8th busiest port in the United States). It increased by over 15 percent in passenger load from 2016 to 2020, so you need to know as much as you can to navigate it quickly and safely. This phase of your vacation will determine whether everything goes smoothly and on time or not.
Driving from the Airport
Whether you’re getting from the airport to the cruise port or back to the airport after your vacation, there are several transportation options available to you discussed below. Which you choose depends largely on the time and money you have to spend on this leg of your journey.
The first thing to realize is that if you’re thinking about renting a car when you arrive, you may want to consider cheaper options, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
One reason you may be driving to the port, however, is if you live in the Baltimore or D.C. area and aren’t flying in at all. While it may seem convenient to take your own car to the port, keep in mind that it will cost you $15 per day to leave your car there, payable at the port by cash or card.
There are free shuttle services available between the parking lot and the terminal, so you don’t have to worry about getting everyone there once you’ve dropped off your car.
Taking the Light Rail
Assuming that you’re flying into BWI to get to the cruise port, you may want to take the light rail from the plane to the cruise.
The Light Rail Service is a provision of the Maryland Department of Transit Administration and services passengers disembarking at BWI with trains leaving directly from the airport station. This is a convenient option if you’ve arrived a day or two early and are planning on doing a little sightseeing in Baltimore’s historic downtown districts as part of your vacation.
Just look at a map to figure out the route you want to take and make sure all your luggage is properly stowed away. Whether you’re connecting to your hotel through the city or going straight to the cruise terminal, the light rail can take you there if you allow enough time for them to arrive and for you to digest the maps of their routes.
For those that want to take in the historic Baltimore downtown area before or after their cruise, see below for a short guide on things to do there. In general, light rail transportation is a great starting point to get you into the city. Just keep in mind that you’ll need additional transport (such as a rideshare or taxi service) once you disembark from the rail since it has no direct stop at the cruise port.
Cruise Line Transfer
If you’re arriving by BWI, the Baltimore cruise terminal is about a 15-minute drive away. Rather than driving yourself, there are a few additional alternatives to taking public transportation lines that may be more attractive to you.
The first is a pre-paid cruise line transfer service. For those who have enough money to take advantage of this service, it’s by far the most convenient option to get you and your party from BWI to the cruise port.
A representative from your cruise line will meet you right at the baggage claim area of the airport and bring you to the port in a coach that has plenty of room for you, your party, and your luggage. This means you don’t have to get passes for public transportation, navigate the rail lines, or worry about parking.
However, this may not be the most convenient option for you, depending on your vacation plan, and we guarantee that it’s not the cheapest either.
For those that have arrived a day or two in advance and plan on exploring a little and staying at a hotel in the Baltimore area, a cruise line transfer may not make the most sense, since you’re not going directly to the port.
For those that are arriving and immediately heading to the port, however, each cruise line offers its own services from around $25 to $35 per person to get from the airport to the cruise directly.
If you don’t want to shell out for the cruise line transfer and also don’t want to use public transportation, there are still other options for vacationers to get where they’re going cheaply and efficiently. Just remember that if you land at another airport (the next closest ones are an hour and a half away from the port), these services will become more limited and more expensive.
Book a Rideshare Service
While taxi services can be somewhat unreliable, they are available most of the time at large airports to take people to ports and hotels. The problem in the modern age of digital transactions is that taxi services often require cash payments and aren’t as reliable as some private companies.
This is why many travel agents have started recommending Uber or Lyft as alternatives to both taxi services and public transportation for people arriving at an airport who need to be driven to a specific destination, particularly a close one like the Baltimore Cruise Terminal.
These rideshare services operate on their own apps and can be scheduled and paid for with a single click made directly from your smartphone. This means that you can schedule the driver from the baggage claim area and have them waiting for you at the designated rideshare services pickup area outside BWI.
Most services like Uber and Lyft claim to be able to get a driver to your location in 10 minutes or less, so you can be sure that you’ll have transportation to the Baltimore cruise port ready even if you’re pressed for time.
You can easily use the same service to get you from your hotel to the cruise in the morning if you’re staying an extra day. With one app and one payment method, rideshare services greatly streamline your schedule in terms of transportation.
Remember when calculating the price of these services compared to other options that Uber and Lyft charge per car. So for up to 4 passengers, these rideshare services can take you from BWI to the port for less than $50.
This means, however, that with a lot of luggage or more than 4 people, you’ll have to call the larger, more expensive rideshare vehicle or multiple cars to get everything to the hotel or port. This can add up, so shuttles may start to seem like more attractive alternatives in that case.
For those pressed for time in a strange city, rideshare services offer you a convenient way to save time (and sometimes money) getting everyone off the plane and onto the boat.
Hotels in the Area
If you’ve come in by BWI and want a hotel for the night located close to your arrival point, you should expect to spend a lot (for cheaper options, you’ll have to look further out from the port). If money is no object, there are quite a few hotels conveniently close to the airport that your Uber driver will know how to get to and your shuttle will undoubtedly pass.
The most convenient is the Brookshire Suites Inner Harbor, located a mere 0.2 miles from the port. Two others that are within a mile of your departure point are the Candlewood Suites Baltimore and the Holiday Inn Express Baltimore Downtown.
Any of these are close and convenient enough to start your vacation off right, with just a short commute from the hotel to the port, which can be achieved easily with the same rideshare or taxi service or with the free shuttles offered by the hotel directly to your departure point at the port. You could walk, in a pinch, but remember that you have to bring your luggage with you.
If you save a dollar by looking for a room further from the port, it may not have a shuttle service. Check with the hotel first to make this part of the journey as convenient for you as possible – you won’t want to be fidgeting with cars in the early morning before your cruise!
Depending on your budget and on how far from the port you’d like to stay, these and other hotel options are available to accommodate you and your family at locations convenient both to the downtown area and to the Baltimore Cruise Terminal.
What to do in Baltimore
Assuming you’ve got a few extra days to kill before or after your cruise, you’ll be wanting to explore the historic downtown districts of Baltimore and taking in its sights. Depending on where you stay, you may have easier access to some of these locations. If you use this guide to plan, it may also make your hotel decision easier to make.
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is a waterfront park in the middle of many historic Baltimore museums and sites which you’d be sorry to miss on your trip. These include the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center, and Port Discovery Children’s Museum.
The Aquarium is a particular treat with its multi-story Atlantic reef exhibit and open shark tank. Particularly if you’re traveling with young children and have time to spend on your vacation before your departure, these and other famous locations should be more than enough to keep you busy.
Antique Row is a 10,000 square foot antiques showcase on N. Howard Street for those who are inclined to be history buffs or who love to explore antiquities.
For a real piece of history, several historic ships are docked in the Inner Harbor for use as living museums, some dating back to 1854.
Federal Hill Park could provide you a quiet alternative to the museums. This historic park used to be a lookout in the days of the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Now, it gives you a perfect view of the Baltimore skyline. The Harborplace and Gallery nearby is home to many historic restaurants.
Whatever you choose, you should be able to find plenty to do if your goal is to enjoy Baltimore for a few days on either side of your cruise.
How to use the Baltimore Cruise Terminal
Assuming you’ve arrived safely at the airport, taken transportation to the hotel or port, explored Baltimore with your extra time, and arrived at the terminal, you may be wondering what to do there. There are a few things you should know about arriving at the terminal and preparing beforehand to make everything go as smoothly as possible.
The first thing you should keep in mind is how early you can arrive at the terminal. This is mostly for those who have stayed overnight at a hotel between the airport and the cruise. If you get there early, you can get your security checks done ahead of time for cruise boarding.
Just don’t arrive too early – since the Port of Baltimore is small relative to its output, it’s advised that you don’t arrive earlier than 2 hours after the previous ship has arrived. Follow the embarkation instructions given to you by the cruise line.
The terminal is a historic landmark all by itself so you might want to save a few minutes to enjoy the building. It was once a 65,000-square-foot warehouse used during WWI. After subsuming five smaller ports, the entire Port of Baltimore is now 45 miles of shoreline.
The terminal itself is located at 2001 E McComas Street, Baltimore. It’s conveniently located within a densely packed area of historic sites and hotels that includes the aforementioned Inner Harbor. It gives you the perfect chance to explore and enjoy Baltimore before or after your cruise, so long as you plan ahead.
To plan for your big cruise departing from the Baltimore Cruise Terminal, there are a lot of things you should know beforehand, which we covered in this guide.
The main thing to consider is transportation. There’s a huge difference between driving and parking at the port and flying in by BWI. In order to not feel like you’re lost, you should already have a game plan before your plane arrives, especially if you’re arriving by one of the other two airports, over an hour’s drive away.
Choosing your transportation method – a public/cruise shuttle, light rail, or a rideshare driver – depends on how many people you’re traveling with, how much time you have, and how much you want to spend. If you’re staying a day or two before your cruise, you’ll also be less pressed for time and have more options in terms of transportation.
If this is the case, there are many hotels close to both the airport and the cruise terminal that a rideshare driver can easily get you to. During those days, you have the entirety of Baltimore’s historic downtown district, rustic sites, historic dining, and museums to keep you and your family occupied.
Regardless of what you choose to partake in, the Baltimore Cruise Terminal is one of the busiest in the nation for a reason. The Baltimore area is packed with sights and the terminal itself is home to many major cruise lines departing to Canada, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.
With this guide and a plan on how to get from the airport to the hotel, what you’ll do on the off days, and when and how you’ll be getting to the cruise terminal, your vacation should set sail cheaply and efficiently, with as little extra stress to you as possible.
Baltimore Cruise Terminal FAQ:
Parking at the terminal, whether you live in the area or are using a rental car agency, is $15 per day.
The closest airport to the terminal is the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. From there, you can book a free shuttle, get a lift from your cruise line transfer service, or call a rideshare company to get you the 10 miles from BWI to the cruise port.
Over 200,000 passengers a year board the fleet of ships that pass in and out of the Baltimore cruise port. The cruise lines that sail from the port include American Cruise Lines, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean International.