Seaport Hopes To Lure Cruise Line Back For Visit
By Dan Dolan
County seaport director Bill Johnson is huddling with Norwegian Cruise Line executives in an effort to turn Miami-Dade into a weekly port of call for passengers on the fleet’s floating pleasure palaces.
Turning Miami-Dade into a weekly cruise destination — not just a point of departure — would boost the county’s direct port revenue more than $1 million, Mr. Johnson said Tuesday. But the biggest benefit would be to the local economy, he said.
"We’re talking millions of dollars flowing to our local taxi drivers, restaurants, shops and tourist attractions like Vizcaya, the Seaquarium and Parrot Jungle as passengers leave the ship and go exploring," Mr. Johnson said. "It creates a wonderful business opportunity for everyone involved."
Until last year, Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,224-passenger ship Dawn, based in New York, stopped at the Port of Miami every Wednesday, Mr. Johnson said. Cruise-line executives did not explain why the visit was scrapped.
Mr. Johnson met with Norwegian’s chairman, Tan Sri Lim, last week to try to persuade the company to resume Dawn’s weekly visits.
"It was a very receptive audience, but they didn’t commit," Mr. Johnson said. "We have a long and rich history together. Norwegian invented modern cruising 40 years ago when they decided to use Miami as their homeport. We’re having very productive conversations that I hope will lead to big things."
Norwegian has decided to use Miami-Dade’s seaport as the Dawn’s home base during the next winter season, corporate executives said Tuesday. The ship is to return to Miami in November to offer seven-day Caribbean jaunts. Two other Norwegian liners call Miami home.
Mr. Johnson said he also is pitching port-of-call proposals to Carnival and Royal Caribbean.
"We’re projecting a 3.5% increase in our $3 billion cruise business this year," Mr. Johnson said. "That’s a good number because many other ports are experiencing decreases. We’re confident the seaport will continue to grow."
He said cargo shipping, which declined 8.6% last year, is on the verge of a turnaround.
"We just picked up two lines of service that mean $1.5 million in new business," he said. "That’s a huge success since it’s reversing the trend. Cruise lines are important, but we can’t afford for the cargo side of operations to tank. We’re talking $13 billion there, so we can’t afford to let cargo deteriorate any further. We’re aggressively pursing new opportunities."
CMA-CGM, the world’s third-largest shipping line, recently initiated a weekly service dubbed Maya Express that will link Miami with Guatemala and Honduras, port officials said. The French firm also will launch weekly Miami-Brazil sailings next month. Advertisement