What does the world's second busiest cruise port need? More ships! Already one of the most congested embarkation ports on the planet, Central Florida's Port Canaveral will be getting some massive new company in the form of Royal Caribbean's 160,000-ton, 3,634-passenger Freedom of the Seas in May 2009, and then Disney Cruise Line's pair of 122,000-ton, 2,500-passenger new-builds, debuting in 2011 and 2012.
Just 45 miles east of Orlando and the Walt Disney World empire, Port Canaveral has been an obvious fit for Disney Cruise Line for the past 10 years (since it launched its cruise venture in 1998). And with a new agreement announced yesterday, the line will continue to call their terminal in the central Florida port home for at least another 15 (until 2022).
What's more, the newly minted agreement means that Disney's two massive new-builds now have their first embarkation port.
Unsurprisingly, the line declined to comment about potential itineraries for its new-builds, but spokesperson Christi Erwin Donnan noted that the Port Canaveral agreement allowed for quite a bit of flexibility. Though there is clearly a commitment to providing cruises out of Port Canaveral, the agreement does not mean that Disney won't be offer options outside of their traditional Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries (Disney Magic will spend summer 2008 partaking in Mexican Riviera sailings out of Los Angeles). But actual itineraries for 2009 and beyond are yet to be determined.
Over the next few years, Disney's terminal and dock will have to be enlarged in order to accommodate the two 122,000-ton, 2,500-passenger ships, which are about 50 percent larger in terms of tonnage than Disney's two current vessels, the 83,000-ton, 2,400-passenger Disney Magic and Wonder. Expansions are planned to support the thousands of new parents and their screaming children (with their added adult- and child-sized luggage), and will include the construction of a multi-level parking structure to be completed by 2011.
In the other Port Canaveral news, Royal Caribbean is nearing an agreement with the port to send Freedom of the Seas, which currently calls Miami home, up north by May 2009. Mariner of the Seas, currently sailing out of Port Canaveral, will moved away to make room. That ship will be heading to West Coast in January 2009.
Besides its proximity to Orlando (Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios), Port Canaveral is known for is surfing, rocket and shuttle launches, and sea turtle nesting. Check out our port profile for more information.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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Disney, Royal Caribbean Add Ships in Port Canaveral
March 20, 2008