Mar 29, 2024 - Business

Baltimore bridge collapse upends cruise routes, moves them to Virginia

The remains of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge lie in the Patapsco River after the container ship Dali (L) struck it on March 26, in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 29, 2024, as clean-up work begins.

The remains of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge lie in the Patapsco River after the container ship Dali struck it on March 26, in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: Mandel NGAN / AFP via Getty Images

Major cruise lines are diverting upcoming cruises from the Port of Baltimore to Norfolk, Va., after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Why it matters: The Port of Baltimore has halted vessel traffic, including cruise ships, indefinitely as crews work to clear debris and a cargo ship that is blocking the channel.

  • It is unknown how long the port will be closed and how long recovery and reconstruction will take. AP reported that rebuilding the bridge could take anywhere from 18 months to several years.

What they're saying: "There is a lot of speculation as to when the channel will be reopened," the Port of Baltimore posted on Facebook Friday. "The fact of the matter is we do not know."

  • President Biden said he's asked his team "to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible."

The big picture: The port is directly connected to 15,300 jobs, while 140,000 in the region are affiliated with it, generating a total of $3.3 billion in personal income, Axios' Mimi Montgomery reports.

Baltimore port closure's impact on cruises

The Port of Baltimore is the 29th largest cruise port in the U.S. and had 444,000 passengers moving through the port in 2023, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

  • Based on 2024 published itineraries, 12 ships were originally scheduled to make a total of 115 ship calls during calendar year at the port, the association told Axios.

Carnival Legend moves to Norfolk temporarily

Carnival Cruise Line said it has temporarily moved the Carnival Legend from Baltimore to Norfolk starting with the current voyage that is scheduled to return Sunday, March 31.

  • Carnival will provide "complimentary bus service" from Norfolk to Baltimore, which is about a four-hour ride away.
  • The Legend will leave for its next seven-day cruise Sunday, which will operate and then return to Norfolk.
  • It is also providing free bus service for the March 31 sailing and $100 onboard credit per cabin, John Heald, Carnival's brand ambassador, said in Facebook video.

What's next: As of Friday, details have not been announced on Carnival sailings past Sunday.

  • "We are going to give you plenty of advance notice for cruises after this Sunday," Heald said.
  • Carnival Corporation said this week that the temporary change in homeport has an estimated impact of up to $10 million.

Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas

The current sailing of the Vision of the Seas will return to Norfolk on April 4, Royal Caribbean confirmed to Axios.

  • "Our guests on board will be provided compensation and complimentary shuttle transportation as well as Wi-Fi and phone calls to adjust their travel arrangements," the cruise line said in a statement.
  • The April 4 and April 12 cruises also will sail from Norfolk. Guests on those sailings will "receive compensation due to the necessary adjustments made to their vacations."

State of play: After the April 12 cruise, the Vision of the Seas heads to The Bahamas for previously scheduled maintenance, Royal Caribbean said in its statement.

More from Axios:

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional details.

Go deeper