Challenging Day at Major Homeport for Cruise Ship Passengers

Higher than anticipated traffic and congestion was a result of Wonder of the Seas' delay into Port Canaveral, but why?

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Port Canaveral, the second busiest cruise port in the world, had an unprecedented busy day on Monday, November 28, 2022. Difficulties arose not only from the four cruise ships already scheduled at the port, but also due to Wonder of the Seas arriving a day later than anticipated after a medical evacuation.

Five Ships in Port

Four cruise ships from four different cruise lines were originally scheduled to be at Port Canaveral today: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Getaway, Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wish, Royal Caribbean International’s Independence of the Seas, and Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Liberty.

These are some of the largest cruise ships, with double occupancy passenger capacities of 3,963, 5,555, 3,634, and 2,974, respectively. Added together and accounting for both embarking and debarking guests, this means a total of more than 32,000 people moving in and out of the port in just a few hours.

Cruise Ships in Port Canaveral, Florida
Photo Credit: Robert Michaud / Shutterstock

This does not count, of course, the movements of cruise ship crew members, port staff, local authorities, and other local residents, as well as cargo or naval traffic for the very active port.

What’s more, Wonder of the Seas was also in Port Canaveral today, owing to the ship’s one day delay returning from its most recent sailing due to a medical evacuation.

Wonder of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world, with space for 5,734 guests at double occupancy – adding more than 11,000 more passengers in and out of the port, for a grand total of more than 43,000 passenger movements in a single day.

Traffic Snarls and Terminal Changes

Port officials began sending out traffic advisories and notifications in mid-morning, advising guests to plan extra time for port traffic and congestion. “Traffic is exceptionally heavy at Port Canaveral today – please allow extra time,” the advisory said.

Because Wonder of the Seas requires a larger berth and was not expected to be in port today, terminal assignments needed to be juggled at the last minute, which accounted for additional congestion for shuttle buses.

This meant that passengers sailing on Independence of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s other vessel in port today, were embarking from Terminal 6 rather than Terminal 1, where the ship was originally scheduled but where Wonder of the Seas docked instead.

Terminal 6 is actually a Carnival Cruise Line terminal, north of the west turning basin, at nearly the opposite end of the port complex from Terminal 1.

Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas (Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz)

Cruise passengers for Independence of the Seas were able to drop their bags at Terminal 6, but move their vehicles to Terminal 1 – where the Freedom-class vessel will return after the 4-night cruise it started today.

Free shuttle buses were provided for guests to return to Terminal 6 for embarkation, as the two terminals are not within walking distance of one another.

Guests Unhappy

Guests from all the ships were understandably unhappy with the traffic congestion and confusion, noting that long lines meant delayed boarding appointment times, missed onboard reservations, and a disappointing start to a cruise vacation.

This is particularly true for guests aboard Independence of the Seas, dealing with shuttle buses and even longer waits due to more confusion and disruption.

Some guests have speculated that as the port grows in popularity and cruise ships get larger and larger, such traffic problems are likely to become more common.

It must be noted, however, that much of the difficulty was due to the unanticipated delay for Wonder of the Seas. The ship was a day late in returning to her new homeport, and if she’d been in port as planned on Sunday, November 27, all cruise ships would have been at their planned terminals with no need for shuttle buses or other diversions.

Fortunately, despite the initial confusion and congestion, all five ships were able to depart Port Canaveral smoothly. Norwegian Getaway is now on a 10-night sailing to visit The Bahamas, Jamaica, Aruba, Curacao, and the Dominican Republic, while Disney Wish is on a 4-night Very Merrytime cruise to The Bahamas, including Disney Cruise Line’s private island, Castaway Cay.

Independence of the Seas is sailing a 4-night cruise to The Bahamas, also visiting Royal Caribbean’s private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay. Wonder of the Seas will also visit CocoCay on its now-shortened 6-night sailing, along with other popular Western Caribbean ports of call.

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