Norwegian Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises' new ships add fall travel excitement, professionals say
By Luisa Esquiroz Arellano
With cruise season upon us, rising numbers in cruise passengers are attracting the largest and most luxurious liners in the world to South Florida, with the Port of Miami still maintaining its place as cruise capital of the world and Port Everglades following closely behind.
It's a win-win for South Florida. Last year 3.14 million passengers passed through Port Everglades and 4.1 million through the Port of Miami, according to sources from both ports, which count passengers when they board and once again when they leave a ship.
For the Port of Miami these figures are establishing a new record in passenger traffic, said port Director Bill Johnson. "At present, the Port of Miami's economic impact is more than $17 billion a year, generating more than 176,000 jobs. Port revenues last year totaled more than $110 million," he said.
"The Port of Miami, known throughout the industry as a world-class facility, is instrumental to the continued growth of South Florida's economy and the cruise industry. With two ultra-modern cruise terminals and an elaborate capital improvement program in place, the port is well under way to accommodate the next generation of cruise vessels," said Lanie Fagan, director of communications for the Cruise Lines Industry Association.
Much announced was the arrival of NCL's Norwegian Epic in July, said to be one of the largest and most lavish cruise ships operating today. In November, the port plans to welcome the Eclipse, a Solstice-class ship from Celebrity Cruises. In February, Oceania Cruises' Marina, a luxury mid-size liner, is also expected to start operations at the port. In addition, Costa Cruises is staging a comeback with its Costa Atlantic expected to arrive at the port in January.
"The cruise lines are adding new ships and bringing more excitement for the destination," said Rolando Aedo, senior vice president of marketing for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. "The Port of Miami is a great magnet to boost tourism to the area. About 10% of all folks traveling to Miami to take a cruise stay in a city hotel before or after their voyage.
"The port is encouraging more and more people to get exposed to Miami, promoting a program of land tours for passengers to stay extra days in Miami before or after going to sea. We are close partners in this endeavor. We want them to keep cruising, but we also want more people to know Miami, the cruise capital of the world."
The convention bureau and the Port of Miami together with Florida International University and Miami Dade College also sponsor several programs including Miami Begins with Me, which trains taxi drivers, among other workers in the industry, to help visitors feel at home.
"The message is, great customer service begins with every Miamian who touches the tourism industry," says Andria Muñiz-Amador, public affairs manager for the Port of Miami. "We also work closely with the Beacon Council and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, among other economic development organizations, to help bring more business into Miami."