Port Canaveral gears up for busy winter after record year – Orlando Sentinel

Despite the uncertainty of COVID-19 that still had its grips on the cruise industry in 2021, Port Canaveral finished its latest fiscal year with record numbers and is gearing up for a winter with bigger and better ships than ever.

“The year ended up quite successfully considering how we started at the tail-end of the pandemic,” said port CEO Capt. John Murray at the port commission meeting on Wednesday.

The port had only welcomed a few ships back to sailing in the summer of 2021, beginning with the debut of Carnival’s Mardi Gras on July 31, banking only a couple of months of the 2021 fiscal year and pulling in only $34.5 million in total revenue, a 20-year low.

The final numbers for 2022′s fiscal year, which ran from October 2021 through September 2022 came in at a record $128 million, nearly $19 million over budget. That includes nearly $100 million from cruise and cruise parking combined, nearly $15 million more than budgeted.

With ships with more capacity slated for 2023, the port is projected to surpass $154 million for the next fiscal year, and some of those ships are lining up to join the winter sailing season now.

Already back at the port is one of the world’s largest vessels, the MSC Meraviglia, which took over duties from the smaller MSC Divina. Both Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean will bring in their fourth ships each to service Central Florida with Carnival Magic arriving on Monday and Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas arriving on Nov. 6.

In mid-November, though, the port will become home to a record holder, the newest Oasis-class vessel in Royal Caribbean’s fleet that only debuted this past March.

“The Wonder of the Seas is the largest and newest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. It’s the largest ship in the world today. So she’ll be with us not just for the winter season, but for the next couple of years,” Murray said.

It will replace Harmony of the Seas, with plans for a “wave out” for the new ship from Jetty Park on its debut sailing at the port on the afternoon of Nov. 13.

Norwegian Cruise Line is also growing its presence with the return of Norwegian Escape on Nov. 19 followed by the arrival of the Norwegian Prima on Dec. 11. Prima is the brand new ship for NCL that was christened in August, a first-in-class vessel that will call Port Canaveral home into the spring.

With the debut of Disney Wish this past summer, Port Canaveral will have for the year brought in three new vessels for major cruise lines, two of which were the first in their class. It also welcomed MSC Cruises for the first time as a home port last fall, and will bring in one of its newest ships, MSC Seashore, in late 2023.

Next summer it will host another new line for the port, Marella, which will begin sailing from the port in April with the Marella Discovery making 22 homeport calls. The line, which is part of TUI U.K. and Ireland tours, caters to British travelers. The 69,130-ton ship debuted in 1996 as the Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas before being sold in 2016 to TUI Cruises.

“Exciting updates and additional vessels that will be calling the port home,” Murray said.

Cruise still drives Port Canaveral’s budget, but cargo brought in more than $18 million and recreation topped $4 million.

But an uptick in cruise customers really took off beginning last spring, with each month seeing more than 300,000 passengers. For the fiscal year, the port ended up with 729 ship calls with 4.1 million multiday passengers. For the next year, the port is projecting 909 ship calls with 5.8 million passengers.

“We’re very bullish for FY23,” said port CFO Bill Poole. “Very strong.”