Port Canaveral Accelerates Plan to Add Terminal to Meet Cruise Boom

Port Canaveral cruise ships
Port Canaveral will add a new terminal at North Berth 8 (behind Carnival ship at left of photo) in 2026 (Port Canaveral)

Published May 9, 2024 8:12 PM by The Maritime Executive


Port Canaveral, Florida outlined its plans for the addition of another multi-line cruise terminal to meet the booming demand of the cruise industry. Port CEO Capt. John Murray said they would accelerate the terminal expansion plans by using an existing cargo berth which would provide cost savings while increasing operational flexibility and expediting construction.

Located in Central Florida and near major tourist attractions including the theme parks, Port Canaveral is one of the fastest-growing ports and admits at times its six cruise terminals are already operating at maximum utilization. In 2022 as the cruise industry rebounded from the pandemic, Port Canaveral was the busiest home port and in 2023 handled a staggering 6.8 million passengers. PortMiami however reclaimed the title of the largest home port with just shy of 7.3 million passengers in FY 2023.

Port Canaveral had 13 cruise ships homeporting in FY 2023 with a total of 906 calls. This is projected to reach 7.3 million passengers this fiscal year with the number of homeporting ships having jumped to 16 this winter season and 19 scheduled for the 2024-2025 season.

“We have cruise partners with immediate needs to locate assets in Florida and Port Canaveral is where they want to be,” said Murray outlining the plan for the next two new terminals at the port. “Our ability to efficiently bring a new cruise terminal online was key to retaining and growing this important business segment that supports many jobs and delivers high value to our regional and state economy.”

Adjacent to the current Cruise Terminal 5 the port identified vacant uplands that they said allow for minimal disruptions to the current port while expediting the addition of a cruise terminal. It will be at North Berth 8 which is currently open space for cargo operations. Designed and built in 2018, Murray said the berth will require minimal modifications to extend the current 1,020 linear bulkhead to 1,333 feet. Improvements to the shared basin will also enhance the berthing capacity of Cruise Terminal 5.

The new terminal building will be smaller but they emphasized the efficient use of technology which aids in moving passengers. It will also have an adjoining garage starting with 2,500 spaces and expanding to 3,000 spaces. Parking has been one of the port’s challenges with the rapid expansion. They are also planning roadway improvements tied to the development of North Berth 8.

Port Canaveral previously outlined a plan for a new cruise terminal that would require relocating the existing private marina in the port. Murray said during today’s briefing that they are still working on this plan but moving back the target date to 2030 or later. It will be another large terminal with 1,400 linear feet to accommodate the largest cruise ships. They previously estimated new planned south side terminal would cost $175 million. No cost estimates were available today for the new north side terminal.

The timeline for design, engineering, and construction of the north terminal at Berth 8 is in development with a target completion for the new facility by summer 2026.

This comes just weeks before Port Canaveral is set to receive the second-largest cruise ship in the world. Royal Caribbean International will be homeporting the Utopia of the Seas (236,860 GT) in Port Canaveral. The ship capable of accommodating approximately 7,000 passengers will be operating twice-weekly short cruises to the Bahamas and represents the latest in a growing list of new ships at the port. Disney’s newest cruise ship, Disney Treasure (144,000 GT), is scheduled to start sailing from the port at the end of 2024 and Celebrity Cruises will be homeporting for the first time at Port Canaveral next winter.