Today's visit by P&O Cruises' Oceana marks the first port-of-call for the Port of Charleston's 2012 cruise calendar, which includes a variety of ships representing some of the world's finest cruise brands.

The 1,944 passengers on board the Oceana are visiting Charleston prior to making the trans-Atlantic crossing to Ponto Delgado, located in the Azores off the coast of Portugal. While in Charleston today, 35 percent of the passengers are participating in organized excursions to Lowcountry plantations and museums along with tours of the city. Passengers ultimately will disembark the ship in Southampton, England on February 12.

This year, 13 different cruise ships from the world's leading cruise lines will call Charleston, reflecting the city's status as a perennial favorite in worldwide best lists. In 2011, for instance, readers of Conde Nast Traveler voted Charleston the top city in the U.S. - the first time the city has grabbed the top position.

The 84 total cruise ship visits in 2012 include 70 embarkations and 14 port-of-calls, representing a level of activity consistent with the port and the city's pledge to keep the cruise business in a size and scale appropriate for Charleston.  

Additional ships sailing to Charleston this year under the Carnival Corporation umbrella include:
•    Holland America's Maasdam stops in Charleston in late April.
•    The Seabourn Sojourn, which made her inaugural call in Charleston last fall, returns in October. The 225-suite luxury yacht makes her local stop as part of a 13-day itinerary that begins in Montreal and ends in Fort Lauderdale.
•    Princess Cruises' Emerald Princess will stop in Charleston in late October during a 12-day Canada and Colonia America tour.
•    The Aida Luna  and Aida Aura both make return visits this October.
The 2012 port-of-call schedule features other cruise lines as well. Crystal Cruises will offer one call apiece by the Crystal Serenity and the Crystal Symphony.  

Norwegian Cruise Line returns to Charleston with a call of the Norwegian Dawn during the fall season with its 16-Day "Colonial America" voyage from Quebec City to Tampa. The line previously offered seasonal cruises from Charleston aboard the Norwegian Majesty before selling the ship.

The 490-guest Navigator, owned by Regent Seven Seas Cruises, is scheduled to return for three calls.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' Columbus 2 calls in Charleston in mid-November.  

Charleston's next port-of-call will be by the Artania, owned by Phoenix Reisen Cruises. The ship will stop in Charleston on February 27 as part of an 18-day sailing that originates in Montego Bay, Jamaica and concludes in La Romana, Dominican Republic.