2 ships spur Port Canaveral growth in 2016

Norwegian Cruise Line – Epic | PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCKOne of the biggest advantages to living in Florida is the access to travel options, and often for a fraction of the cost. The cruise industry has had a big presence in Florida for decades, but expect it to grow even more rapidly in the coming year, spurred by growth at Port Canaveral.

In fact, cruising worldwide is seeing a renaissance of sorts, with Cruise Lines International Association reporting that 15 new cruise ships are expected to be added in 2016, increasing global cruising capacity by 8.1 percent. Florida stands to benefit from this increase in interest ― and more specifically, Port Canaveral.

In October 2015, Cruise Critic named Port Canaveral the Best North American Homeport, calling it the “most up-and-coming cruise hub.” Port Canaveral officials report that it will grow by 50 percent in the next four years from serving 4.2 million cruise passengers to 6 million passengers annually.

Royal Caribbean – Oasis of the Seas | PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCKWith new ships coming in, and new schedules and locations, 2016 will be one of the best years in recent memory for those who live on the Space Coast and love to cruise.

“Florida is the cruising capital of the world and Port Canaveral is really gaining momentum,” Patty Toppa, local consultant with Go Travel in Suntree, said. She cites location and Port Canaveral’s distinction as a port of call as two reasons it is seeing such a surge in ships and popularity.

Perhaps the biggest news happening at Port Canaveral in 2016 involves the arrival of two of the world’s largest cruise ships. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic, one of the line’s newest and largest ships, arrives at Port Canaveral in November and will spend the winter season on the Space Coast. 

“Epic recently underwent a very extensive, multi-million dollar dry dock to receive enhancements from bow to stern.  So she will arrive in Port Canaveral as quite a new ship with really exciting new entertainment offerings, something our guests love and an industry trend,” Vanessa Picariello, senior director of Public Relations at Norwegian, said.

Epic will offer Eastern and Western Caribbean cruise options and make stops in locations like Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios, British Virgin Islands and St. Thomas.

The biggest cruise ship ever based at Port Canaveral, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, will arrive around the same time as the Epic. The Oasis is actually the largest cruise ship in the world, tied in capacity and size with its sister ship, Allure of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean – Oasis of the Seas | PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK

When Oasis and Epic arrive, the number of cruise ships calling Port Canaveral home will rise to 10.

For those looking to cruise in 2016, Toppa says there are a variety of opportunities.

“The best time for cruising as far as price is anytime that kids are in school. People who are retired with flexible schedules can take advantage of going during this low season time and save,” Toppa said.

As for thoughts on Port Canaveral itself, Toppa said the increase in ships and activity only stand to benefit local residents.

“This port is one to be reckoned with. It’s quickly becoming the number one destination for people who love to cruise,” she said.