Like the Red Sox home opener and flowers in the Public Garden, cruise ships in the harbor are an official indicator of warmer weather and fun-filled days coming to Boston. Today, the Italian cruise ship Costa Atlantica, opens the 2010 Cruise Season, and is one of 109 ships expected to carry more than 300,000 passengers in and out of Cruiseport Boston this year. 

“We are excited about the 2010 cruise season as it promises to be another record-breaking year for passenger numbers,” said Mike Leone, Massport’s Port Director. “Cruiseport Boston offers New England cruise-goers and Logan Airport passengers wonderful opportunities to take Bermuda, Canada & New England, Caribbean-repositioning and trans-Atlantic voyages right from Boston.”

The cruise industry contributes well over $400 million to the region’s economy each season. Additionally, the arrival of every port-of-call ship visiting Boston for the day brings droves of passengers headed for cultural attractions, sightseeing, shopping, and dining in and around the city. Ultimately, these one-day visits provide an incentive for travelers to return to Massachusetts for a longer stay.

In 2010, passengers will see improvements to the interior and exterior of the cruise terminal as Phase I of an $11 million upgrade nears completion. Phase II is on schedule to finish later this year.  Some eye-catching improvements are the 16-foot high, red-lettered Cruiseport Boston sign atop the terminal roof and several graphic panels of famous Boston sites on the terminal’s exterior. New painting, lighting, and decorative banners also brighten the terminal.

Last season Massport introduced two important customer amenities to the terminal: Customer service representatives stationed at all three Cruiseport Boston berths to help visitors find dining, shopping and sightseeing options in and around Boston; and a 75-vehicle cell phone waiting lot located just a quarter-mile from the cruise terminal for limousine drivers and others waiting to pick up passengers returning from their cruise.

The flagship of Cruiseport Boston’s home-based ships is Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,000-passenger Norwegian Spirit which sails weekly to Bermuda, and boasts several hundred balcony staterooms. Also highlighting Boston’s cruise fleet is Holland America’s Maasdam which sails every other week to Montreal, and features the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine. The center is a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen for gourmet presentations, tasting events, and cooking classes. Later this season, Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas offers cruises from Boston to ports in Canada and New England, and features amenities such as a rock-climbing wall, indoor/outdoor country club with a golf simulator, and an indoor solarium.

Always popular with Boston residents, the 2010 season will also include an “Overnight Cruise to Nowhere” aboard Norwegian Spirit, Sept. 24-25.