Major Homeport Expects Busy Holiday Weekend of Cruises

Port Canaveral is expecting record-breaking numbers for both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve - what will this mean for traffic and parking?

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With holiday cruises coming up the next two weekends and some of the largest cruise ships in various fleets embarking and debarking simultaneously, Port Canaveral is expecting record-setting passenger numbers and extremely heavy traffic in the coming days.

Guests are advised to plan for extra time when traveling to and from the port, and to take other steps to ensure a smooth and timely experience.

Busy Holiday Weekends for Port Canaveral

Holiday cruises are a great getaway for many travelers, particularly when bringing together different families for a memorable, multi-generational celebration without crowding into a single house or leaving any one family member with the bulk of the holiday prep.

At Port Canaveral this holiday season, however, cruise guests will still be in for massive crowds and potential delays, as multiple ships will be embarking and debarking at the port both on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Cruise Ships at Port Canaveral
Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz

On Saturday, December 24, five vessels will be in port, representing four different cruise lines: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape, Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wish, Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras, and Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas. Of the five Christmas Eve vessels, all but Mariner of the Seas are the largest in their respective fleets by double occupancy capacity.

In total, December 24 may see as many as 45,000-50,000 passengers moving in and out of the port facilities in just a few hours. Because many holiday cruises are family sailings booked at greater than double occupancy, higher numbers are more likely.

On December 31, passenger numbers at the port will be even higher, with six vessels embarking and debarking simultaneously.

Norwegian Escape, Disney Fantasy, Wonder of the Seas, and Mardi Gras are all sailing 7-night cruises and will return to Port Canaveral on December 31, and they will be joined by Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Magic and Royal Caribbean International’s Jewel of the Seas.

Combined, all six vessels will bring 50,000-56,000 passengers to the port for New Year’s Eve.

Heavy Traffic Anticipated

Port Canaveral has seen huge numbers of passengers for the past several months, with a total of 13 homeport vessels exceeding 100,000 passenger movements per week since October, according to numbers released at the most recent commission meeting on Wednesday, December 7.

That holiday sailings are even more popular is proven by the Thanksgiving Week numbers. “We did 145,000 passengers in a week,” said Captain John Murray, port director and CEO for Port Canaveral. “It’s an all-time record for us.”

The Christmas holiday weekends are projected to be even busier. “We’re looking at numbers greater than that coming up over the Christmas holidays,” said Murray.

Disney Wish in Port Canaveral
Photo Courtesy: Port Canaveral

Of special difficulty will be the lack of parking spaces at the cruise port, with arriving passengers unable to find spaces until guests from the previous cruises have vacated the port.

Port officials are working with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office to direct traffic at peak times, but traffic crossing bridges and causeways into the port area can quickly become snarled when parking slots are filled and guests are arriving too early for embarkation.

“If you’ve got a boarding time of 10 a.m., don’t get here at 9, don’t come here at 8, there’s no parking space for you,” said Murray. “If everybody’s on time it works smoothly.”

In addition to directing traffic and managing arrival times, port officials are also planning for overflow parking lots as much as possible.

How to Beat the Traffic

Cruise guests who want to avoid the worst traffic before or after their holiday cruise can take several steps to minimize congestion.

  • Arrive within the designated embarkation, boarding, or arrival window selected when checking in for the cruise.
  • If possible, choose a later arrival time that will be well after the previous cruise has fully debarked.
  • Stay in contact with the cruise line in case of delays, and heed any requests to adjust arrival times if necessary.
  • If cruising with a group, carpool as much as possible to minimize the number of vehicles.
  • If cruising locally, consider using a ride share service instead of driving a personal vehicle to the port.
  • Investigate off-site parking options, such as local parking lots or stay-and-cruise hotel packages.
  • Check the port schedule before sailing to be aware of the terminal assignment and associated parking structure.
  • Remain patient when encountering traffic and be polite to port employees and traffic managers.

A holiday cruise can be an amazing experience, and guests eager to make holiday memories onboard should be cautious and patient when dealing with heavier-than-usual traffic.

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