World’s Busiest Cruise Port Targets New Terminal

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Port Canaveral has announced it has plans to expand the number of cruise terminals in the port, with a new terminal proposed for late 2026.

While the port did not reveal which cruise ships would be operating from the new terminal, it is clear that both Port Miami and Port Everglades are maxed out. Any cruise lines that want to grow in Florida must do so in Port Canaveral.

Port Canaveral officials revealed the new cruise terminal would cost around $175 million, slightly more than the $163 million Cruise Terminal 3 that Carnival Cruise Line uses. The proposal was unveiled in an amended five-year capital budget plan, which the Canaveral Port Authority commissions discussed at their meeting on Wednesday.

New Cruise Terminal on the Horizon

With Port Canaveral now ranking as the world’s No. 1 cruise port in terms of passenger volume, Port Canaveral needs further investment in infrastructure and facilities to maintain its position and meet the growing demand placed on the port by cruise lines and passengers. 

This is why the port has announced it is looking into building a new $175 million cruise terminal that it would build on one of four possible sites towards the south side of the port. The options for the building site will be discussed internally first and revealed to the public at a later date.

Cruise Ships at Port Canaveral
Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz

Which cruise ships or cruise lines would be based at the new terminal is still being determined. Port Director and CEO John Murray did mention the port is awaiting announcements by cruise lines before he can discuss details of the new ships, while he suggested interest is high from cruise companies.

The new terminal’s $175 million price tag is a rough estimate, with the most recent terminal, Cruise Terminal 3, costing about $163 million, including a brand-new parking facility. What is clear is that the new terminal will be a significantly sized facility, rivaling Cruise Terminals 1 and 3, which are being used by Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line, respectively.

Aiming for 6.4 Million Passengers with Higher Occupancy Rates

While the cruise port already achieved the status of the world’s busiest cruise port in terms of visitor numbers earlier this year, the growth continues. Port Canaveral expected the 2022-2023 fiscal year to be the busiest year on record, with 5.8 million passengers.

Port CEO John Murray hopes to expand those visitor numbers to 6.4 million, a goal that could be achieved as cruise lines operate at much higher occupancy levels than expected.

Port Canaveral
Photo Credit: Canaveral Port Authority / Shutterstock

Rather than the 100% occupancy rates estimated for cruise ships sailing from Port Canaveral in 2023, the port anticipates a 110% occupancy rate for the rest of the year, with certain ships even reaching 125% or 150% occupancy. 

Although these figures may appear improbable, it’s important to consider that Port Canaveral is a popular destination for family-oriented cruise ships.

Cruise lines such as Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean often have a significant number of children onboard. These young guests typically share cabins with their parents, resulting in higher occupancy rates than the standard double-occupancy measurement might suggest.

The fact that cruise ships are sailing far above 100% occupancy rates and the new cruise terminal put Port Canaveral in a great position to solidify its future growth and competitiveness. The port will be able to continue attracting more passengers and cruise lines and reinforce its position as the world’s busiest, and not unimportant, most popular cruise port with passengers.

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