5 million Miami cruise passengers in view
Three more cruise ships based here this month and more due this season should push Port Miami close to 5 million passengers, officials say.
Some debate which seaport leads in passengers, but Florida clearly is the world’s cruise capital, boasting the top three: Port Miami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral.
Reports put Miami atop with 3.77 million multi-day passengers in the year ended Sept. 30, 2012. Passengers are counted twice, when they board and leave.
Port Canaveral in Central Florida was a close second, with 3.76 million, followed by Port Everglades in Broward with 3.69 million.
Port Miami officials, however, have said they have been topping 4 million annually. The large majority of cruises from Miami are seven-night Caribbean voyages.
Now, officials say three more ships being based here starting this month and a fourth early next year should elevate Port Miami to new passenger heights.
Arriving in November are the Carnival Conquest, to be here all year; the MSC Divina, also year-round; and the Costa Luminosa. They’ll be followed by the brand-new Norwegian Getaway, in Miami year-round starting in January or early February, officials said.
Also added for 2013-14 were the Carnival Ecstasy for year-round cruises and the Disney Magic, back for a second winter. Resorts World’s Bimini Superfast began daily gambling cruises from Miami last summer to Bimini Bay in the Bahamas.
Overall, 13 lines now base 30 cruise ships here, port officials say. All are multi-day ships except Bimini Superfast and two Aida vessels making regular calls here.
Carnival Cruise Lines leads with seven ships based here, followed by Norwegian Cruise Line with six and Royal Caribbean with three. Also here are Azamara Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
Hydi Webb, Port Miami cruise development manager, says wooing cruise ships to Miami can be a long process, with preparations of up to two years.
Among new arrivals, Ms. Webb points out, the 4,000-passenger Divina had been based in Italy. The Getaway, she adds, is the first ship with a full slate of Miami-themed onboard features.
With Miami’s cruise business due to grow, officials plan major terminal projects, although still “a ways off,” says spokeswoman Paula Musto. “We do recognize the need [for such projects] and they are being discussed,” adds Ms. Webb.
In recent years, officials have ticketed about $18 million to upgrade two cruise terminals, with plans to spend millions more, including for a multi-berth complex.
Recent projects have spent $15 million to improve Terminal D, used by Carnival; and $3 million to renovate and upgrade the dockside of Terminal J, a “boutique” for smaller ships.
Yet those would pale beside a goal in Port Miami’s master plan, which spans through 2035: a “terminal complex” to link or combine terminals and berths with common baggage-handling and screening, plus an air-conditioned 1,400-foot walkway.
The aim would be to add two or three 1,200-foot cruise berths. The port may look to finance some of that, which could cost hundreds of millions.