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Canaveral ready for Utopia, Star of the Seas, still planning new multi-use terminal

''We max out our days of the week at all of our six terminals ... Our terminal utilization is incredibly high,' Port Canaveral's David German said
Upgrades to handle Allure of the Seas' short cruises make Port Canaveral well-poised for the new Utopia of the Seas and Icon sister Star of the Seas, while plans for a new multi-user terminal continue.

So said David German, VP cruise business development, Canaveral Port Authority, in an interview with Seatrade Cruise News.

Royal Caribbean International's Vicki Freed, SVP sales, trade support & service, recently said Allure of the Seas has been the company's most successful short-cruise product ever. The ship began operating three-/four-night cruises from Central Florida in October, a first for the Oasis fleet, traditionally a seven-night product.

'We're excited about the numbers they've been hitting,' German said, which he put at about 6,200-plus passengers even now during the 'quote-unquote "weak" season so it does bode well for Utopia. It primes the pump for their new vessel coming in July.'

Plenty of parking

To cope with greater drive-in traffic, before Allure's introduction Canaveral put in a new surface parking lot with 1,000 spaces to serve Royal Caribbean's Cruise Terminal 1. That was more than needed to accommodate Allure but the port wanted to be ready for additional volumes expected on Utopia and for 2025's larger Star of the Seas.

German said the CT1 berthing, terminal flow and parking are adequate, with no further infrastructure work needed to handle the new ships.

At the north side of the port in the west basin, two new parking structures worth a total $68m are going up to serve terminals used by four other cruise lines.

These will add 1,940 spots to CT6, one of Carnival Cruise Line's homes, and 1,081 to CT10, where MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line operate now and Disney Cruise Line will be expanding from its own CT8. The extra parking is to be ready by October/November for the start of the 2024/25 season.

7.3m passenger moves projected

Port Canaveral is on track for its projected 7.3m passenger moves in fiscal 2024 (that began October 2023), up from the all-time high of 6.8m in fiscal 2023, making it the world's No. 2 cruise port behind Miami with 7.29 passenger moves in the same period.

In December, Canaveral posted a record month with 734,485 passenger moves and a record day, Dec. 30, with 61,208.

For the second winter season in a row, Canaveral has 13 homeported cruise ships weekly; next season that's expected to increase to 16 or potentially 17, German said.

New 2024/25 season ships

NCL's Norwegian Epic is coming back early from Europe, making for an additional four turns at the season's start. The new year-round ship Disney Treasure is scheduled to join the lineup in December, when Carnival Venezia is set to sail a 'winter snowbird' season before returning to New York in the spring.

Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises will be homeporting (seasonally) for the first time.

And the third Prima-class ship, Prima Plus Norwegian Aqua, is to debut there in April 2025 for the summer season, with Star of the Seas arriving for the summer, too.


The Bluepoints Marina is located to the left of The Cove

Update on the planned multi-user terminal

German indicated preliminary discussions continue with cruise lines, architects and designers about the planned multi-user terminal that is still targeted for the current site of Bluepoints Marina on the south side of the port's western end.

'We're going to build it big for the big users and put the largest ships we can there,' German said, adding that late 2026 completion is the goal but plans are still being worked out.

High capacity utilization

Thanks to its high capacity utilization, Port Canaveral is nipping at Miami's numbers despite having fewer terminals — six compared to PortMiami's nine currently. (Though MSC Cruises is set to inaugurate what's touted as North America's largest cruise terminal there in the coming winter; ultimately, it will have three berths and also serve Royal Caribbean ships.)

According to German, 'We max out our days of the week at all of our six terminals ... Our terminal utilization is incredibly high. But we're at a point where we need that additional berth for sure.'

Not surprisingly, Canaveral's busiest days are Friday through Monday but in the coming years, there will be 'a lot more' transit calls on Tuesdays and even some turnarounds on Wednesdays.

More five- and six-ship days

'Our no-ship days are becoming more and more scarce and our five- and six-ship days are increasing ... Nearly every Saturday next winter season will have six vessels in.'

Meanwhile, when Canaveral can't accommodate a berthing request, it works with the line to adjust the itinerary to fit into days they normally wouldn't use. 'In most instances they are willing to do so,' German said. 'That allows us to put three homeported vessels in one terminal at a time during the busy season. It's a big part of our success here.'

An example is how Carnival Corp. adjusted to add a Princess ship. At CT6 Carnival Freedom operates a five-five-four rotation, in port on Monday, Saturday and Thursday, while Carnival Vista's six-eight program has it in on alternating Saturdays and Sundays. For its six-eight series, Caribbean Princess is taking the alternate Saturday and alternate Monday to weave it into the rotation.

MSC's 'incredible' growth

German also pointed to the notable growth of MSC Cruises at Port Canaveral. After starting in September 2021, MSC is scheduled for more than 100 calls this year.

'For a line to come in and have that significant amount of impact in that short a time is incredible,' German said, especially considering the big new vessels they've deployed, with MSC Seashore homeporting and MSC Meraviglia calling on weekly cruises from New York (Brooklyn).