PortMiami reopened at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 25, 2023, almost 12 hours after the early-morning boat collision that caused a fatality, sunken wreckage, and channel closure, thus prohibiting three large cruise ships from reentering the port at the end of their sailings.
Emergency personnel were able to successfully clear the channel and ensure the safety of the returning vessels, however, and the debarkation and subsequent embarkation of nearly 30,000 cruise passengers has begun.
PortMiami Now Reopen
Once the sunken boat wreckage was safely lifted from the Government Cut at PortMiami, the cruise port was able to successfully reopen and welcome back the three cruise ships scheduled to debark and embark passengers today: Norwegian Escape, MSC Seascape, and Carnival Celebration.
All three cruise ships had been anchored just outside the channel since the port was closed in the early morning hours, awaiting updates from port authorities and the US Coast Guard for clearance to enter the port.
The port was closed at approximately 3:40 a.m., when a 30-foot boat collided with the Fisher Island Ferry just east of Dodge Island, the location of the cruise ship terminals.
One person was killed in the accident, another was transported to a local hospital in serious condition. No other circumstances of the incident have been released and the investigation is ongoing as to the cause of the collision, who may have been at fault, and what the consequences may be.
A barge with crane equipment was brought in to salvage the sunken vessel, while divers conducted inspections to ensure the channel’s safety.
As the port has reopened, the 165,000-gross ton Norwegian Escape was the first vessel to enter the channel and dock, followed by the 169,400-gross ton MSC Seascape, and finally, the 183,500-gross ton Carnival Celebration.
By 3:45 p.m., all three vessels had entered the channel, and Norwegian Escape had already completed docking. Together, the three ships are carrying in excess of 15,000 travelers, as well as thousands of crew members.
As each ship docks, it will need not only to debark passengers as well as any crew members who may be at the end of their ship contracts, but also take on supplies for the next sailing.
Keeping Guests Informed
All three cruise lines have worked diligently to keep guests onboard the ships and those embarking for today’s departures informed throughout the day with text messages, emails, and letters handed out at the cruise terminals.
While the situation has been well beyond the cruise lines’ control, each one has sought to help keep guests comfortable as the day progressed.
Guests onboard had various announcements whenever new information was available, and crew members worked to provide food, beverages, and entertainment options.
For travelers whose cruises will now be starting hours later than anticipated, the cruise lines have provided onboard credit ($20 per person for MSC Seascape and Carnival Celebration, and $25 for Norwegian Escape) to compensate for today’s lunch costs, as well as recommendations for where to go nearby for shopping, dining, or entertainment.
Carnival Cruise Line has also provided complimentary shuttles for its guests to visit Bayside Marketplace, a nearby shopping center with a variety of food options. A Carnival staff member has also been onsite at Bayside Marketplace to keep guests informed throughout the day.
“This is not the way we expected to start your cruise, and we appreciate your patience and understanding,” one update from Carnival read. Each ship is anticipating debarkation to last 2-3 hours, with embarkation for the next sailings to begin shortly thereafter.
In the late afternoon, Norwegian Cruise Line informed incoming guests that they expected to begin check-in at 7 p.m., with embarkation starting at approximately 9 p.m. “Please do not arrive to the port prior to 6 p.m.,” the NCL notification said, in an effort to minimize traffic and crowding.
Similarly, MSC Cruises advised incoming guests that embarkation would not likely begin until 5 p.m. “We currently expect to start embarkation no earlier than 5:00 p.m.,” the MSC letter read. “We will promptly inform you as soon as we have a clear idea of when we will be ready to welcome you on board.”
Will the Next Itineraries Be Impacted?
There is no word yet on whether or not the next sailings of each vessel may be altered to account for the late start. Each ship is scheduled to begin a 7-night sailing today, with all three vessels departing on Eastern Caribbean voyages.
While each ship has a different itinerary and different ports of call, all three are scheduled to spend Monday, June 26 at sea.
This can make it easy for each ship to make up for lost time by adjusting the sailing speed to compensate, which should mean the overall itinerary is not dramatically impacted.
Each cruise line will, of course, make any schedule change decisions based on overall sailing routes, planned times in port, and cruising speeds, and those changes will be communicated to passengers when any adjusted plans are confirmed.
Cruise Hive’s thoughts are with the families of the individuals involved in this morning’s accident, and good wishes go out to all impacted passengers for smooth sailings on their slightly delayed cruises.