May 26, 2023
Port Canaveral's cruise business is charting a record pace

Photo: Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral is on track to break the record set in 2019 for cruise passengers if current trends continue.

Economic Backbone: Transportation

Port Canaveral's cruise business is charting a record pace

Amy Keller | 5/19/2022

More than two years after the pandemic brought cruising to a standstill, the industry is making a comeback. Roughly 741,000 passengers sailed out of Port Canaveral on multi-day cruises during the last quarter of 2021, and the port is poised to break a 4.6 million passenger record set in 2019 if the post-pandemic trajectory holds, port officials say.

The Central Florida port derives about 80% of its operating revenue from cruise-related businesses and now ranks as the second-busiest cruise port in the world after PortMiami.

As tourists return to the seas, they’ll have even more cruising options. The number of home-ported ships at Port Canaveral grew from nine to a record 11 this year and will hit 13 by year’s end, though several of those ships are seasonal. Among the notables: Disney Wish — the newest ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet and the second ship out of Port Canaveral powered by liquefied natural gas (the first was Carnival’s Mardi Gras) — will make its maiden voyage from Port Canaveral this summer. Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, will begin sailing out of the port in November. MSC Cruises, a Swiss-Italian cruise line, is new to the Central Florida port, with sailings of the MSC Meraviglia cruise ship in the winter season and the MSC Divina in the summer.

In other Port Canaveral news:

  • Several improvement projects are underway, including a $2.2-million pier extension that will allow cruise terminal 5 to accommodate ships more than 1,100 feet long; $2.9 million in upgrades to the Disney terminal; and a $48-million rebuilding of an obsolete cargo berth empty since 2018.
  • Cargo revenue at the port totaled a record $11.1 million last year — a $1.5 million (15.7%) increase over fiscal year 2020, with growth in shipments of fertilizer (103.7%); aggregate/limestone (32.7%); slag (49%); and lumber (83.8%). Last June, Ambassador Services International moved 13,752 bundles of lumber through the port over two days — a record amount fueled by the construction boom in Central Florida. While the port's cargo segment is at 75% capacity, current tenants and terminal operators are seeking more land and warehouse space to accommodate increasing business.
  • Canaveral Port Authority CEO and Port Director John Murray was elected chairman of the non-profit National Cargo Bureau, which assists the Coast Guard with meeting international safety regulations related to cargo transport.

Brightline Connection

Following the completion of a 3.5-mile section of track leading into Orlando International Airport, Brightline’s 170-mile extension between West Palm Beach and Orlando is 70% done and will be finished by the end of 2022. When service begins in 2023, passengers will be able to travel from OIA to downtown Miami in about three hours for about $100. Trains will travel at 35 mph at the airport before heading east along S.R. 528 toward Cocoa, where they will approach 125 mph. Riders also will have the option of booking a ride in a private car, a shared ride aboard an eShuttle bus or bike rental to get from the train station to their final destination (as long as it’s within five miles of the Brightline station) through a recently unveiled service called Brightline+.

I-4 Toll Lanes

Central Florida drivers who avoid I-4 at all costs have a new travel option — the I-4 Express, a limited access toll road inside of I-4 that’s designed to relieve traffic congestion. The managed lanes (which are separated from the general lanes by concrete barriers) stretch 21 miles from just west of Kirkman Road in Orange County to mile marker 95, east of S.R. 436 in Seminole County. Right now, the state is charging motorists an introductory rate of 50 cents per segment, which equates to $3.50 eastbound and $3 westbound for the entire length of the expressway. Eventually, FDOT will adjust rates based on traffic volume to manage congestion. Drivers must have an approved transponder, such as SunPass, to drive on the road, or will be charged $25 on top of the toll cost.

Tags: Central, Transportation, Feature

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