(9:30 a.m. EST) -- A total renovation of Port Tampa Bay's Terminal 6, originally announced in 2015, is now open.
The project came in on time and under budget after eight months of construction, according to Wade Elliott, the port's vice president of marketing and business development.
The cruise terminal, which will mostly be used by Royal Caribbean International, can now accommodate 2,500 passengers (before, it could only hold 1,800) due to a building extension. That means all three terminals at Port Tampa Bay can now withstand the passenger capacity of mega-ships.
The renovated Terminal 6 also features improvements like a 7,277-square-foot expansion of the ticketing area, with 32 new ticket counters and 28 new baggage tables along with expanded parking. Currently, the port offers about 4,000 parking spaces.
Passengers on the November 4 sailing of Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas were the first to sail from the newly refurbished terminal. Empress, as well as Carnival Paradise, sail Cuba cruises from Port Tampa Bay.
Royal Caribbean has plans to homeport its 2,435-passenger ship Rhapsody of the Seas in Tampa when Empress moves to Miami at the end of 2017.
--By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor