Will PortMiami keep its hold on their title as Cruise Capital of the World?

June 22, 2018

PortMiami is working hard to secure its future by investing in new multimillion-dollar cruise terminals. Most recently, the terminals for the Royal Caribbean and the Norwegian Cruise Lines state of the art terminals are being designed and constructed to lodge the largest cruise ships currently developed and to bring in billions of dollars in revenue to the port and the city.

The overall goal is to secure PortMiami as the most visited seaport for cruisers around the world. The Royal Caribbean Terminal, set to open in October, will soon be home to the world’s largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, after a $247 million dollar investment.  

Norwegian Cruise Lines is following suit with plans to open its brand new $100 million-plus Terminal B in 2019. The 166,000 square-foot, pearl-shaped terminal was designed to house the Miami-based cruise line’s largest ships. “More ships coming into our community generates more economic impact, and that supports more jobs,” explained Rolando Aedo, who is the COO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

While construction is underway, PortMiami is working to defend its title as the world’s busiest cruise port. The Port saw 5.3 million cruise travelers in 2017 who brought in more than $1 billion in state and local taxes. The MiamiPort also supported 300,000 jobs in 2017. After the completion of the new terminals, by 2020, the MiamiPort is expected to play host to 7 million passengers.

More than just Norwegian and Royal Caribbean are investing in the new port. Billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who is the founder of Virgin Group is also taking a piece of the pie. Branson announced a joint venture with Bain Capital to launch Virgin Voyages. The start of Virgin Voyages will sail its first ship, which holds 2,700 passengers, year round.

MSC Cruises is also set to build a new terminal at PortMiami by 2022 as part of their $10.2 billion fleetwide investment. This will bring new ships to PortMiami, including its largest ship, MSC Meraviglia.

PortMiami’s success and title as the number one choice for cruisers can be traced back to Carnival Corp. & plc, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, and Norwegian Holdings Ltd – which are its three largest cruise operators. All three hold their headquarters in the Miami-Dade County. Despite decades of being headquartered in the area, PortMiami wasn’t an automatic choice for the Cruise Lines’ latest ships. In 2007, PortMiami failed to draw Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. This was a significant blow to the PortMiami.

According to PortMiami Director, Juan Kuryla, the port was outmaneuvered by Port Everglades.

“We got a lot of calls from the downtown merchants, asking how this could happen,” he said.

This wasn’t the last time PortMiami took a blow. In 2017, they also lost out on Royal Caribbean’s new ship, Harmony of the Seas. Harmony of the seas was, at the time, the largest cruise ship in the world.

Miami-Dade County learned from its mistakes and went above and beyond when the opportunity arose again. The Miami-Dade County was extremely accommodating when the latest terminal developments were proposed.

Both terminal developments are backed fully by the county, with large investments from the cruise companies. Royal Caribbean’s terminal is being completely self-financed in exchange for a long-term, 66-year, lease with the port. Unlike Royal Caribbean’s financing, PortMiami will provide $100 million for the Norwegian venture.

“Communities are seeing cruise ships as not part of an industrial port, but as part of the urban area,” said Bermello, Ajamil & Partners CEO Luis Ajamil. The Miami-based firm is involved in the projects at PortMiami. “We spent a lot of time fitting terminals for the long-term future,” he said.

Other developments, such as the completion of the Brightline passenger train and port tunnel have also been completed in the last 5 years. This will provide easy access to the ports and will benefit the area.

“We saw what happened when we didn’t put our best foot forward, and it’s a bad feeling when they [ships] leave,” Kuryla said. “We had to do something here – and we did. Now, we’re going to keep applying that mindset.”



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