The cruise capital of the world is becoming bigger than ever

PortMiami has seen unprecedented success in the cruise sector for many years, and with new partnerships, there is no sign of it slowing down

The cruise capital of the world is becoming bigger than ever
Virgin Voyages’ new terminal will feature glass walls to provide uninterrupted views of the Miami skyline

Commonly known as the cruise capital of the world, PortMiami is currently home to some of the world’s largest cruise lines, including Carnival Corporation, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Its popularity could be down its south-east Florida location, which is ideal for cruise ships wanting to sail the Caribbean within a matter of hours. Alternatively, it could be due to the fact the city offers cruise guests many opportunities to enjoy art, history, nightlife, dining and family fun.

Whatever the reasons behind its reigning success, cruise lines have flocked to the port to set up roots. In 2018, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. opened Terminal A – dubbed the Crown of Miami – which is the largest cruise terminal in the US. The port’s expansion has continued into 2019, with the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners approving a series of deals for new facilities that will consolidate the port’s position as the cruise capital of the world.

One of the announcements was Virgin Voyages’ new US$194 million terminal. Construction will begin in 2020 and the project is expected to be completed in November 2021, ready for the start of the year’s cruise season.

“South Florida is our home and with our fleet now growing to four ships, we’re humbled and thankful to soon have a gorgeous new terminal overlooking the Miami skyline, an incredible view that will set the stage for the alluring journey that we will take our sailors on,” said Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Voyages, in a press release.

Designed by Arquitectonica, the 100,000-square-foot area will be inspired by Miami Beach’s iconic backdrop and the island’s history of coconut harvesting. The roof will resemble the canopies of palm trees, with holes that mimic those between each leaflet to let the natural light into the building. Standing at two storeys high and with storm-proof glass, the building will also feature lush landscaping and designated areas for drop-offs and ride sharing.

The project at the county-owned port is part of Virgin Voyages’ wider plans to embrace Miami as its US home. The firm’s branding will be emblazoned on the train which will take passengers from Miami to West Palm Beach, and it has set up an office for its hotel development branch in Coconut Grove.

As part of the line’s new commitment to PortMiami, its first vessel, Scarlet Lady, will begin sailing Caribbean cruises from Miami from April 2020. The line’s second ship will also homeport in Miami during the autumn/winter 2020-2021 cruise season.

The new terminal will also drive significant economic benefits for Miami.

“Investing in new cruise terminals positions Miami-Dade County as a global destination for visitors,” said Rebeca Sosa, chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Economic Development and Tourism Committee, in a press release. “A continued partnership between Miami-Dade County and Virgin Voyages can only be beneficial to the expansion of tourism in our region. More cruise lines, terminals and vessels represent thousands of jobs and increased opportunities for our community.”

But Virgin Voyages isn’t the only cruise line making the most of Miami’s dynamic offerings. Norwegian Cruise Line is expected to complete construction on its nautilus-inspired building by mid-2020 and MSC Cruises is hoping to welcome passengers into Terminals AA and AAA by late 2022. Carnival Corporation has also invested US$195 million to renovate and expand Terminal F at the South Florida port. The new structure will not only be the largest cruise terminal in the US, but also in North America.

The facility, which will be designed by Miami-based Berenblum Busch Architects, will feature a white canopy structure above floor-to-ceiling window walls with LED lights illuminating the company’s signature red and blue colours. When completed, it will be able to accommodate Carnival’s largest Excel-class ships including Mardi Gras, which will have a passenger capacity of around 6,500.

Carnival expects to complete the renovation and expansion by October 2022. As part of its deal with Miami-Dade County, the cruise line will have priority berthing rights at the new terminal for 20 years.

“Everyone is very excited about Miami being home to our next LNG ship in North America and the sister ship to Mardi Gras, which arrives next August and is generating tremendous enthusiasm,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a press release.

This article was first published in the 2019 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts
19 February 2020

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