Governor Martin O’Malley announced today that Royal Caribbean International (RCI) has presented the Port of Baltimore with its worldwide “Best First-Turn” award for customer satisfaction.   Baltimore topped all international cruise ports served by Royal Caribbean to win the honor.  The award recognizes a passenger’s pre-board experience at a cruise port.    Pre-board includes cruise terminal location and accessibility, parking, security, baggage handling, and the ease of boarding the cruise ship.

“Royal Caribbean has been an outstanding partner for the Port of Baltimore and we are very proud of this international recognition,” said Governor O’Malley.  “We are committed to providing all of our customers with a first-class cruise experience from the moment they reach our terminal.  This international award demonstrates that labor and staff at the Port of Baltimore are delivering on that commitment.  This intense focus on customer service will continue in the days ahead.”

Royal Caribbean’s 2008 cruise season from Baltimore starts April 26 as the Grandeur of the Seas returns for the first of 16 cruises from Baltimore to Bermuda, the Caribbean and New England/Canada.

“The Port of Baltimore has been a great partner with both RCI and its many service providers,” said Juan Trescastro, vice president of land operations, worldwide port operations and guest port services for RCI.  “Baltimore has been instrumental in providing our guests an outstanding first and last impression during their cruise vacation experience.  To win Best First Turn worldwide for the RCI brand shows the port’s dedication to its partners and local community and is a great asset to the city of Baltimore."

"This award represents the hard work, pride and dedication of every person involved in the Royal Caribbean experience in Baltimore,” stated Cindi Schuman, pier manager for Destination Florida-New England, the ground operator who handles guest check-in for cruises from the Port of Baltimore.  “Our guests benefit from the convenience of a wonderful cruise terminal adjacent to Interstate 95 and are only mere moments away from Baltimore's Inner Harbor.  Whether arriving by plane or simply driving from their homes, the guest's pre-cruise experience is unparalleled in the industry."

“We are very pleased that RCI has awarded the Port of Baltimore with its “Best First-Turn” Award,” commented Doug Wolfe, port manager for Ceres Marine Terminals, Inc. Baltimore.  “This is a reflection of a cumulative effort made by Ceres, labor and the Port of Baltimore. We are happy to know that RCI is satisfied with the high quality standards that Ceres provides and look forward to continuing a longstanding, award-winning relationship in the future.”

The Port of Baltimore’s Cruise Maryland terminal in South Locust Point opened in 2006.   The terminal offers onsite parking near the pier and is uniquely positioned less than 200 yards off Interstate 95.   The cruise terminal is located only about 10 miles from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, while three other major airports are little more than an hour away.   The 60,000 square foot facility also includes seating for more than 750 people and has 36 mobile check-in stations