Carnival pulling Pride from Baltimore

White said state officials "all support" the EPA's push to reduce pollution from oceangoing ships but hoped some alternative solutions could be found.

The state spent $13 million to convert an old paper warehouse in south Locust Point into a cruise terminal in 2006, and Carnival turned what had been a seasonal cruise business into a year-round one in 2009, Scher said.

Largely because of year-round voyages of the Pride and Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, Baltimore has become the fifth-busiest cruise port on the East Coast. Carnival has said the Pride carries 115,000 passengers annually from here.

The company also announced it was moving another ship, the Carnival Glory, which sails out of Boston, New York and Norfolk, Va.

White said voyages from Northeast ports appear most affected by the pollution limits, as they spend most of their time in coastal waters where the more expensive low-sulfur fuel would have to be burned. The costs are even steeper from Baltimore, he said, because ships must cruise an extra 150 miles down the bay to get to the Atlantic.

Helen Delich Bentley, a former congresswoman and long-time port advocate who serves on the state port commission, faulted the EPA for Carnival's move.

"If we lose the Pride, we'll get something else,'' she said. "But it's a big blow if the EPA does not grant a waiver when things on the ship are pretty much under control." She added that she believed federal regulators need to rethink their entire approach to ship pollution.

"What do they want?" she asked. "Do they want people to work, or do they want them to go on welfare?"

Environmentalists criticized Carnival, saying the company had tried to "strong-arm" the EPA and used Maryland officials to bring added pressure.

"It's absolutely despicable that a company that makes as much money as Carnival would take this action rather than use clean fuel," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington environmental group.

"It's disappointing," added Marcie Keever, who monitors cruise lines' environmental performance for Friends of the Earth, saying an industry that specializes in taking people to scenic places "should be the cleanest in the world."

Carnival Cruise Lines operates 24 ships, but is part of Carnival Corp., which has about 100 ships overall that operate under Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Cunard and AIDA Cruises.

Through the first six months of this year, the parent Carnival Corp. reported earning $78 million on sales of nearly $7.1 billion. A year earlier, it reported losing $125 million on roughly the same sales.

Cruise ships have suffered a series of high-profile problems in the past several months. In February, Carnival's Triumph stranded 2,758 passengers for five days in the Gulf of Mexico after a fire knocked out power. In March, two Carnival ships had to cut short cruises because of generator and engine problems. And last month, a fire abruptly ended a Bahamas voyage of Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, cutting short vacations of 2,224 passengers, who were flown home.

News that the Pride would leave Baltimore for Tampa late next year upset some Baltimore area cruise enthusiasts.

Danielle Peterson, 35, of Columbia is a veteran of nine Carnival cruises. Her 10th cruise, a trans-Atlantic voyage, is planned for September. She said she had planned to book a Christmas cruise on the Pride next year. She said she'd gladly pay $100 or so more for the convenience of sailing from Baltimore, since the cost of flying to another port would be so much more.

"They've got to do what they've got to do,'' she said, but added, "You've got to have clean, fresh air. The cruise industry, they make tons of money. … They need to be better visitors of the sea."

The Pride is scheduled to depart for the last time from Baltimore on Nov. 30, 2014, on an eight-day, one-way cruise to San Juan, Puerto Rico, after which it will sail to its new home port, Tampa.

A Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said recently that the company was seeking permits from the EPA to outfit six of its ships with scrubbers, including the Baltimore-based Grandeur of the Seas. The spokeswoman, Cynthia Martinez, said Thursday in an email that the Grandeur is scheduled to continue sailing year-round from Baltimore through April 2015.

tim.wheeler@baltsun.com