9 Things to Know About the Baltimore Cruise Terminal

What you need to know about the Baltimore Cruise Terminal in Maryland. Locations and helpful tips before or after your cruise vacation out of the city.

If you’re planning to take a cruise vacation from Baltimore in Maryland, the Baltimore Cruise Terminal will be your point of departure. This guide will provide everything you need to know to help you use the terminal to begin and end your vacation. We’ll take you from arrival and baggage check to sipping a “Welcome aboard” glass of champagne. 

We also include info about Baltimore’s historic downtown, inner harbor, and all about the cruise terminal itself. 

There are many aspects of embarkation and debarkation that cruise passengers may forget to schedule or consider. These include the time and method of transportation from the nearest airport, where to park your car for the duration of the cruise, and what exactly you and your family are going to do with your luggage. We also have some suggestions for what to do in the area to keep you occupied if you plan to stay a few days pre or post-cruise.

So here are nine essential things to know about the Baltimore Cruise Terminal to make your vacation start and end the right way. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll know what to expect in terms of transportation and luggage check-in.

Being well-informed about every aspect of the Baltimore cruise terminal will keep you and your family from stressing out on what should be the start of the most relaxing vacation you’ve ever had.

History of the Port of Baltimore Harbor

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 Baltimore Harbor. We’ve included a few statistics to let you know what you’re getting into in terms of the size and legitimacy of this popular embarkation point within the famous Inner Harbor.

The Baltimore Cruise Terminal at the Port of Baltimore is located 40 miles northeast of Washington D.C. The port was established in 1706 and now covers 570 acres.

The area took its name from Lord Baltimore of the Irish House of Lords. The advantageous location of the port made it an immediate success and it quickly became established as a trading hub for exporting tobacco, and later for industrial developments in steel and automobiles.

In 2006, it celebrated its 300th anniversary and was renamed in honor of Helen Delich Bentley, a firmer Congresswoman and editor of the Baltimore Sun newspaper. 

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 busy commercial hub for automobiles and container cargo and is home to a major health services center. It has also developed as a convenient cruise departure point and home port for several major cruise lines.

Baltimore Cruise Terminal – What to Expect

Baltimore cruise terminal is located within Baltimore Inner Harbor at 2001 East McComas Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230

The cruise terminal is located in a 65,000 sq. ft converted paper warehouse. It opened in May 2006, and improvements were made in 2014. It has just one terminal with no plans for expansion.

It handles over 200,000 cruise passengers annually and is a popular cruise homeport option for cruisers on the US East Coast. There is ample parking at the port, which does not need pre-booking. Prices are from $15 per night.

Due to high security at the port, you will need to show a government-issued photo ID, such as a passport or driver’s license, when entering the terminal building. All luggage will be subject to security screening. This includes the bags left at the bag drop and your hand luggage.

Baltimore Cruise Port Parking
Baltimore Cruise Port Parking (Photo Credit: Cruise Maryland)

There is a drop-off point close to the terminal where taxis can drop off their passengers. If you are arriving by car, you can also drop off your tagged luggage and passengers here before heading to the cruise parking lot. Porters are easily identified by their red caps. 

Inside the Baltimore Cruise Terminal building, there are limited services, but there is free Wi-Fi throughout. Lockers are no longer available for security reasons. There is plenty of seating and restrooms with baby diaper tables.

However, if you arrive hungry and thirsty, there are only a few vending machines, so you are advised to shop and eat before arriving at the terminal. Gift shops, fast food outlets, a pharmacy, and a grocery store are all outside Baltimore Port.

Those with limited mobility should request assistance prior to arriving at the terminal. Wheelchairs are available, but only inside the terminal building. You cannot take them onto the cruise ship, so you should make your own arrangements to hire or bring your own mobility scooter or wheelchair.

Baltimore Terminal Arrival
Baltimore Terminal Arrival

On your return, passengers will start to disembark in pre-nominated groups once the vessel has cleared US Customs and Border Control. Your bags will be collected from your cabin the night before and will be ready for you to identify and collect them from the baggage claim area.

You will then head to immigration to show your documents before heading outside for your pre-arranged transportation. If you are being picked up, you should walk to the Pick-Up Lot where they can park and wait without charge.

The terminal has a Lost Luggage department managed by the Intercruises Shoreside and Port Services. If you need their services, you can contact them at 443-421-5651 and make arrangements to retrieve any lost luggage.

Where to Cruise to From Baltimore Cruise Terminal

Cruises from the Baltimore cruise terminal regularly sail to Bermuda, Canada, New England, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. It is the home port for several major cruise lines, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean. From late 2023, Norwegian Cruise Lines will also have two ships using it as their home port.

Procedures and tips for cruise passengers will be covered in detail below, including getting to the terminal, arrivals from airports, taxis, arrival times and baggage requirements.

Hundreds of thousands of people embark on a cruise from the Baltimore cruise 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.

Airport Tips

If you’re arriving by plane to connect with the Baltimore Cruise Port, you will probably fly into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), located 10.9 miles away from the terminal. It’s an easy 10-minute ride to the port.

Even though that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s a hassle to transfer when you have a ton of luggage. That’s what these airport and transportation tips are intended to guide you through.

Baltimore Airport
Baltimore Airport (Photo Credit: FloridaStock / Shutterstock)

This airport is one of the East Coast’s busiest transportation hubs. The port is the busiest in the USA for specialized cargo, mainly vehicles, bulk cargo, coal, and steel. It is also a busy cruise port, handling 224,000 passengers in 2019. 

The Port of Baltimore’s cruise terminal supports over 500 jobs and brings in over $90 million to Maryland’s economy. In addition to dozens of homeport cruises, the Port handles port calls from visiting cruise ships.

Getting to Baltimore Cruise Terminal

Directions

From the north: Take I-95 South through the Fort McHenry Tunnel and keep in the far right lane. Take the exit after the tunnel, signposted Key Highway. 

On the ramp, move to the left lane and turn left at the traffic light. Continue left onto East McComas Street and you’ll reach the Terminal entrance and pier. 

There is official cruise parking within walking distance of the Cruise Maryland Terminal. Parking fees are reasonable at the port, and even cheaper if you opt for off-site long-term parking lots.

Driving from the BWI Airport to Baltimore Cruise Terminal

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. Which you choose depends largely on the amount of time and money you want 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.

Baltimore Cruise Port and Skyline
Photo Credit: Cruise Maryland

One reason you may be driving to the port, however, is if you live in the Baltimore or D.C. area. While it may seem convenient to take your own car to the port, keep in mind that leaving your car there will cost you $15 per day, payable at the port on arrival by credit card.

Free shuttle services are 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.

However, Baltimore Cruise terminal is just a short stroll from the parking lot, and it’s very easy to walk, especially if you drop off your luggage and passengers before parking.

Taking the Light Rail to Baltimore Cruise Terminal

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 terminal.

The Light Rail Service is a provision of the Maryland Department of Transit Administration and services passengers disembarking at BWI.

Trains regularly run 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 district as part of your cruise vacation.

Baltimore Light Rail
Baltimore Light Rail (Photo Credit: Liz Mangels / Shutterstock)

Whether you’re connecting to your hotel through the city or heading to the cruise terminal, the light rail can take you there. Check the map and timetable and make sure you allow enough time to check in at least 90 minutes before your cruise sets sail.

Remember 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.

For those who 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. 

Cruise Line Transfer to Baltimore Cruise Terminal

If you’re arriving by air, the Baltimore cruise terminal is about a 15-minute drive away from BWI Airport. There are several ways to transfer to the cruise port or to a downtown hotel if you are arriving a day or two earlier, which is recommended.

The first is a pre-paid cruise line transfer service. For those who want 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. However, it is more expensive than some other options. 

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.

Cruise Ship Docked in Baltimore
Cruise Ship Docked in Baltimore

For those who 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 who are arriving and immediately heading to the Baltimore cruise terminal, each cruise line offers its own services from around $25 to $35 per person to get from the airport to the cruise directly. You should book through your travel agent or directly with your cruise line.

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 to Baltimore Cruise Terminal

Taxi services are available most of the time at large airports to transport people directly to ports and hotels. However, there may be a long wait at busy times. 

This is why many travel agents have started recommending Uber or Lyft as alternatives to both taxi services and public transportation. These services are ideal 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 pick-up area outside BWI.

Baltimore Road Traffic
Baltimore Road Traffic (Photo: Shutterstock)

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 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 four passengers, these rideshare services can take you from BWI to the port for less than $50.

However, if you have a lot of luggage or more than four 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 be 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) by getting everyone off the plane and onto the ship in a smooth, hassle-free manner.

Hotels around Baltimore Cruise Terminal

If you’ve arrived in Baltimore and want a hotel for the night located close to the cruise terminal, you should expect to spend more. For cheaper hotel options, you’ll have to look further out from the port but you will need to pay more for transport if the hotel does not offer a complimentary shuttle service.

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. Several offer a complimentary airport shuttle to transfer you to the hotel.

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.

Baltimore Cruise Hotels
Baltimore Cruise Hotels (Photo Credit: LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock)

Any of these hotels are close and convenient enough to start your vacation on a high note with just a short transfer from the hotel to the port. This can be achieved easily with a rideshare or taxi service or with a free shuttle offered by the hotel in some cases. You could walk, at a pinch, but remember that you have to bring your luggage with you.

If you save money booking 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 worrying about transport to the cruise terminal in the early morning before your cruise!

Read Also: Most Ideal Hotels Near Baltimore Cruise Port

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 See and Do Around Baltimore Cruise Terminal

Assuming you’ve got a few extra days to kill before or after your cruise, you’ll want to explore the historic downtown districts of Baltimore and take in the 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 Harbor
Baltimore Harbor (Photo Credit: Jay Yuan / Shutterstock)

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is a waterfront park in the middle of many historic Baltimore museums and sites which are definitely worth a visit. These include the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center and Port Discovery Children’s Museum.

Baltimore Aquarium

The Aquarium is a particular treat with its multi-story Atlantic reef exhibit and open shark tank. 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

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 browse for antiques, sculptures and decorative objects with a past.

Historic Ships in Baltimore Harbor

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. This floating collection of historic ships includes the USS Constellation, US Coast Guard Cutter 37 and Lightship Chesapeake. Tickets are required before you can go aboard and explore. 

Federal Hill Park

Federal Hill Park could provide you with 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 Harbor Place 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.

Norwegian Sky Cruise Ship in Baltimore
Norwegian Sky Cruise Ship Baltimore (Photo Credit: Port of Baltimore)

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 two hours after the cruise 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 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.

Final Overview

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.

Worth Reading: 7 Reasons to Cruise from the Port of Baltimore, Maryland

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.

Vision of the Seas in Baltimore
Vision of the Seas in Baltimore (Photo Credit: Port of Baltimore)

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 area. Baltimore is packed with sights and the terminal itself is home to several major cruise lines departing to Canada, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.

With this guide, you can now plan how to get from the airport to the cruise terminal or hotel, what sightseeing you’ll do, and when and how you’ll be getting to the cruise terminal. Bon voyage!

Baltimore Cruise Terminal FAQ:

How much is parking at the Baltimore Cruise Terminal? 

Parking at the terminal, whether you live in the area or are using a rental car agency, is $15 per night.

What’s the closest airport to the Baltimore Cruise Terminal? 

The Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport is the closest airport to the terminal. From there, you can book a free shuttle, get a lift from your cruise line transfer service, or call a rideshare company to transfer the final 10 miles from BWI to the cruise port.

Which cruise lines sail from the Port of Baltimore? 

The main cruise lines from Baltimore cruise port are Carnival, Norwegian (NCL), and Royal Caribbean International.

Gillian Birch
Gillian Birch
Gillian Birch is a full-time travel writer and author of 12 travel books. British educated with a diploma in journalism she has traveled the world, writing about her experiences with wonderful clarity and eyewitness detail. She uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many cruise experiences around the Caribbean, Mediterranean, trans-Atlantic, Norwegian Fjords, Panama Canal and South America including Cape Horn. Find out more about us here.

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