Families looking for a cheap getaway, friends looking to do a little duty-free shopping and couples celebrating over some drinks and gambling returned Sunday morning from a two-night stay on the Chesapeake Bay, after embarking on a Carnival Cruise Line deal spurred by Hurricane Sandy.
The sold-out cruise, called the "cruise to nowhere," hosted many residents from the areas — Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania — along the eastern seaboard that were spared from the worst of the hurricane-turned-superstorm's wrath, many of whom said the convenience of hopping on Interstate 95 was a draw to the deal.
Carnival offered the cruise from the port of Baltimore, with prices starting at $99, after canceling the ship's planned Oct. 28 departure for a 7-day-cruise to the Caribbean. Carnival began its regularly scheduled 7-day-cruises on Sunday.
Cancellations are a rare move for any cruise company, but passengers said the ship still packed all of its fun with plenty of food and entertainment to occupy them at sea.
"We still got the stuff that people pay thousands for, the lobsters, the steak," said Merlene Blaylock, of Woodbridge, Va., who joined four of her family members on the boat. "We piled everything into two days, except swimming."
"And we'll BE home in time for the Redskins game," Blaylock said. "Can't beat that."
Roughly 2,350 passengers climbed aboard the Carnival Pride, which holds about 2,400 people, for the slow sail out to sea and back, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said.
"We're glad to be able to provide people an opportunity to sail," Gulliksen said. "And hopefully a lot of people who have never cruised before got to see the ship and will come back to join us."
First-time cruisers, Nancy and Bill Parks, of Sykesville, said they enjoyed that their first time didn't come with pressure. "There wasn't any rush to do anything," Nancy Parks said. "Cruising is a different experience, so you got to take everything in."
And veteran cruisers, Robert and Daisy Mungin, of Randallstown, said that the cruise was just as relaxing as their other 17.
"Just having fun and enjoying yourself on a weekend away is a beautiful thing," Robert Mungin said.
Mother-daughter duo Danielle Koontz and Caitlin Ruby, of Sterling, Va., said that staying in such close quarters with others looking for fun also made a good setting for meet new people.
"It was nothing but activities on the ship, there was just something always planned," said Koontz, who pulled 14-year-old Caitlin out of school on Friday to make the trip.
"It was easy to make friends because there were no ports, so you were kind of stuck with everyone," Caitlin said. "You all just kind of stuck together."
Marcus Barnes of Washington, D.C., said that even though his friend bailed out of the trip at the last minute, he had fun on board alone.
"The cruise was just fabulous, with the diversity of people taking advantage of this deal," he said. "It was really fun, and if they do it again, I'll do it again."
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