The news of the Pride's quick return to Baltimore was cheered by port officials, who have been working since the summer to bring Carnival back, and see growing potential in Baltimore's cruise industry.
"Professionally and personally, I'm very pleased," said James White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration.
Every single cruise out of Maryland provides about $1 million in economic impact to the state, White said, and the port is looking forward to more than 100 cruises in 2015 — about half on the Grandeur of the Seas and half on the Pride.
"We're real happy about it," White said, "and we're going to continue to grow this business."
Riker "Rocky" McKenzie, president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 333, one of the port's ILA locals that work cruise ships and the union that has been clashing with port employers over labor issues, welcomed the news that work on the Pride will continue into the future.
"If we have federal regulations and rules that require certain environmental standards be met, I think it's admirable of them to come into compliance," McKenzie said.
Environmentalists who have long criticized the cruise industry's pollution welcomed the planned emissions upgrades on the Pride.
"It's positive news that the ship will be equipped with pollution controls," said Frank O'Donnell, head of the Washington lobby group Clean Air Watch. "That means cruises can resume without filthy air wafting across the Baltimore area."
Last summer, state officials attempted to intercede with the EPA on Carnival's behalf to speed the approval process of its new emissions technology.
O'Donnell said O'Malley let himself be used by Carnival in what he called "an attempt to squeeze the EPA and to try to intimidate them."
An O'Malley spokeswoman at the time said that if "jobs are at stake, the governor is going to go to bat for those jobs."
The first Pride cruise out of Baltimore after the Tampa stint is scheduled to depart March 29, Thornton said, and passengers will see more than better air quality.
During its drydocking, the ship will also receive major renovations to its on-board amenities as part of Carnival's $500 million fleetwide investment known as Fun Ship 2.0, he said.
The new and improved Pride will feature a Guy's Burger Joint developed by Food Network personality Guy Fieri; a Bonsai Sushi; an EA Sports Bar; and a Blue Iguana Tequila Bar.
The ship's water park will get an upgrade, notably with the installation of the Green Thunder, which Carnival touts as "the steepest and fastest water slide at sea."
"We're going to add just a significant number of new features and amenities to the ship," Thornton said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Michael Dresser and Timothy B. Wheeler contributed to this article.