PortMiami: why world's cruise capital is poised for growth

One of the busiest in the US, the port’s record-breaking performance continues to enhance its reputation as the cruise capital of the world

PortMiami: why world's cruise capital is poised for growth
Virgin Voyages’ new terminal will be a palm grove-inspired design concept developed by Arquitectonica

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Home to 21 cruise lines, with no less than 54 ships using it as a homeport or port of call, PortMiami contributes approximately US$43 billion and more than 334,000 jobs annually to the South Florida economy.

Last year saw the port setting another world record in cruise passenger traffic, with nearly 5.59 million vacationers sailing through it. And with more exciting developments planned and underway, this busy US port is looking forward to continued growth.

PortMiami launched a new programme of renovations and improvements recently, which includes options for new cruise berths, terminals and parking facilities to expand its footprint to accommodate the next generation of cruise ships. Four cruise lines have announced ambitious expansion plans at the port in recent years.

The first of these expansions was completed late in 2018 when Royal Caribbean International officially opened Terminal A, the largest cruise terminal in the US, in collaboration with Miami-Dade County. Designed by Broadway Malyan, the 170,000-square-foot terminal now serves as homeport to some of Royal Caribbean’s largest ships: the Oasis-class Allure of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, each of which can accommodate 5,400 passengers.

A further major enhancement project is Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ Terminal B, dubbed the Pearl of Miami, which is now under construction and scheduled to open in February 2020. The futuristic terminal, designed by Miami-based global architecture firm Bermello Ajamil & Partners, is inspired by a nautilus with a spiralled and multi-level façade that will open to ocean views. It will accommodate ships that can carry up to 5,000 passengers. The facility promises to enhance the guest experience with innovative lighting, inviting indoor and outdoor waiting areas, and new technology to support faster and more efficient embarkation and disembarkation processes, as well as expedited security screening and luggage check-in.

MSC Cruises also has a new cruise terminal – or two – in the works. In January, a letter of intent was signed that would bring an estimated 1.5 million passengers through PortMiami each year. MSC Cruises currently operates a fleet of 15 cruise vessels and three of these – MSC Seaside, MSC Divina and MSC Armonia – call Terminal F at PortMiami home. Last year, Miami-Dade County Commissioners approved plans for MSC Cruises to build on a terminal site with space for one 7,000-passenger ship at a time, but the new proposal potentially doubles this with enough space to accommodate two 7,000-passenger ships at a time. Arquitectonica has been chosen as the architect for the facility.

Last year also saw Miami-Dade County Commissioners sign a memorandum of understanding with Disney Cruise Line to expand with two cruise ships and a possible new cruise terminal. The agreement gives Disney the first right to negotiate a possible new cruise terminal on the port’s south side, which would enable the operator to homeport larger ships carrying more than 3,500 passengers. Starting in January 2023, Disney plans to begin year-round operations at PortMiami with a ship carrying at least 3,500 passengers on four- and five-day sailings. Another ship carrying 3,500 or more passengers will sail three- and four-day cruises by January 2024. The partnership is expected to generate US$2.7 million in gross revenues and transport 360,000 Disney passengers through Miami by 2023.

Virgin Voyages is also putting down roots at PortMiami with plans to build a 100,000 square-foot terminal in 2021 for its new cruise ships, Scarlet Lady and her yet-to-be-named sister. The terminal’s palm grove-inspired design concept will be developed by the Miami-based designers from Arquitectonica. Pending approval, it is expected to be complete by November 2021, in time for beginning of the year’s cruise season. Until then, Scarlet Lady, the line’s first cruise ship, will be based in Terminal F and will continue to sail to the Caribbean from Miami throughout 2021.

Ever a compelling location for the world’s leading cruise operators, PortMiami is moving in many exciting directions as it ushers in a new era of modern cruising. It’s full speed ahead for the port as it charts a strong and steady course, with new opportunities for growth and prosperity on the horizon for both the cruise and cargo sides of the industry. 

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Jacqui Griffiths
By Jacqui Griffiths
Friday, May 24, 2019