After the first launch attempt of the Artemis 1 mission was scrubbed for technical issues, NASA has announced the next launch date for Saturday, September 3, 2022.
The launch window will open at 2:17 p.m., and heavy traffic may significantly impact cruise debarkation and embarkation for the four ships at Port Canaveral that day.
Port Canaveral Expecting Heavy Traffic on Saturday
Four ships from three cruise lines will be in port on Saturday: Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom and the line’s flagship, Mardi Gras; Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas; and Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy.
Combined, the three vessels have a passenger capacity of roughly 15,300. When accounting for both debarking and embarking guests, more than 31,000 cruise travelers may be moving through Port Canaveral on Saturday.
While this is less than the 36,000 cruise passengers moving to and from the port during the first launch attempt on Monday, August 29, increased local weekend traffic is expected to impact driving times in the area.
Other visitors may also take advantage of the Saturday afternoon launch window to visit the area in hopes of seeing Artemis 1, the most powerful rocket ever built, lift off. Local authorities predicted 100,000-200,000 visitors in the area for the first launch attempt, and just as many – or more – may be present for Saturday’s attempt.
Impact on Cruises
Guests booked on September 3 sailings for any of the ships from Port Canaveral should be aware of potentially lengthy delays traveling to and from the port. This can be true even for short distances, such as from beachside hotels near the port, as local traffic and pedestrians can clog roadways.
This may make shuttle bus transit times much longer than expected to and from the cruise terminals, and passengers should plan accordingly to be sure they have plenty of time to reach airports if debarking the ships, or to reach the cruise port on time for embarkation appointment times.
Booked guests have already begun reaching out to their cruise lines with concerns about possible delayed embarkation. Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald clarified that the cruise line’s leadership team is aware of the issue and will be considering alternatives if necessary.
“They are working through this at the moment and will in the coming days send everybody an email who is booked on these cruises with any changes or considerations made to embarkation and sailing times,” Heald said.
Because the launch window will extend to 4:17 p.m. and both Mardi Gras and Mariner of the Seas are scheduled to depart the port at 4 p.m., it is possible there may be some delays with setting sail to be sure no ship interferes with the hazard area as the rocket may be underway.
Passengers debarking any of the ships should have less difficulty since the launch window does not open until 2:17 p.m. If guests leave their cruise ships early, while they may still encounter heavy traffic or snarls caused by accidents or breakdowns on the roadways, they should reach airports in good time.
Orlando International Airport is 45 miles from Port Canaveral, and usually takes 45-60 minutes to drive in typical traffic. Saturday’s traffic, however, may be far from typical.
Guests embarking for their cruise vacations on Saturday may encounter greater difficulties, particularly closer to the launch window or immediately after a successful launch. Traffic across local bridges and causeways may be particularly tight, especially if there are accidents.
Local authorities will be monitoring traffic conditions, as well as directing cruise traffic to the appropriate parking structures and drop off points.
As with the previous launch attempt, Port Canaveral officials still recommend extra travel time for Saturday: “Cruise guests, vendors, and employees heading to the Port for any ship sailings that day should plan for extra driving time with higher-than-normal traffic volumes expected on all roadways in and around Port Canaveral.”
At this time, there have been no changes to local traffic plans and parking restrictions. The same plans are in place as were applicable to the previous attempt.
Seeing Artemis 1
Guests embarking cruises on Saturday may have some of the best possible views of the launch from their respective ships. Because the two-hour launch window opens at 2:17 p.m., guests already onboard can find a north-facing spot on a balcony or outside deck to watch for the rocket.
The rocket will be launched from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, less than 15 miles north of the port.
Tuning in to NASA’s livestream of the event will also alert interested guests about launch delays or a possible scrub if necessary. Because cruise ships will not yet have left port during the majority of the launch window, guests could use their own cell phone service to tune in, rather than needing onboard WiFi access.