BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – The Florida Ports Council told Florida Today that Port Canaveral has passed Miami as the world’s busiest cruise port for the first time.
A new report from the group says that 4.21 million people will pass through Port Canaveral during the fiscal year of 2022. Compared to that, the Port of Miami has 4.02 million. Florida Today, a partner of News 6, says that Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale stayed in third place with 1.72 million passengers.
“We’ve always wanted to be the best cruise port in the world, but to be known as the busiest is a huge accomplishment,” said John Murray, the CEO of the port. “This historic milestone shows how hard our team and cruise partners work to give all cruise guests who leave from Port Canaveral the best possible experience.”
At the moment, 13 multiday cruise ships from Carnival, Disney, MSC, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean are docked at Port Canaveral.
Port Canaveral is also a big part of the overall tourism market on the Space Coast, since many cruise passengers stay in local hotels before or after their trips. They also go to local attractions, eat at local restaurants, and shop at local stores.
Executive Director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism Peter Cranis said that Port Canaveral’s No. 1 ranking shows how great the infrastructure is and how much there is to see and do on the Space Coast. It says a lot about where we are and how much people like to stay here before and after a cruise.”
Cranis also said, “Port Canaveral has come a long way and worked hard to become the world’s busiest cruise port, overtaking Miami.”
Murray said that the new ranking is important because Port Canaveral has always had a “friendly rivalry” with the Port of Miami and Port Everglades, as Brevard County’s seaport has tried to become the No. 1 cruise port.
“Sometimes it’s fun to go back and forth in the rivalry,” Murray said at a news conference where he talked about the rankings. “In 2022, we came out on top, which is something to be happy about right now.”
Murray said that Port Canaveral reached its goal by attracting some of the newest and biggest ships in the world, and it is now set up well for the future.
Murray said, “I think the fact that we have newer, bigger, and nicer ships will continue to give us a good push in the future in terms of our reputation and the kinds of cruises and people who come to see us.”
Murray said he is not worried about a report from the Florida Ports Council that says Miami will again have more passengers than Port Canaveral by 2027, with 8.40 million passengers compared to 6.43 million at Port Canaveral.
Murray said that those numbers are “very speculative” and that Port Canaveral could reach the 2027 goal a long time before then.
Murray said that the passenger numbers for 2023 at Port Canaveral have been good so far and are likely to be much higher than the numbers for 2022.
Royal Caribbean’s “Oasis Class” ship Allure of the Seas, which can hold up to 6,780 people, will start sailing from Port Canaveral twice a week on October 25. That will be the first Oasis Class ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet that sails twice a week on a regular basis. Murray said that shows how confident the cruise line is in Port Canaveral and its ability to bring in passengers.
Also, Marella Cruises will start service from Port Canaveral on May 7. They will focus on sailings for people from the UK who will fly into Melbourne Orlando International Airport.
Murray said, “We have a very busy plan for the future.” In the next three to five years, Port Canaveral may need to build another cruise terminal.
Cruise ports in the state of Florida
Murray said that all of the cruise ports in Florida are doing well right now.
Murray said, “It’s great to see it coming back strong” after being shut down for a long time during the COVID-19 pandemic. From mid-March 2020 to the end of July 2021, Port Canaveral was closed for more than 16 months.
“All of our cruise ports bring in a lot of money to the state of Florida,” Murray said.
People are counted as passengers on ships that are based at a cruise port both when they get on the ship at the start of their cruise and when they get off at the end of their cruise. Passengers are only counted once for ships that are not based at a port but stop there for a port-of-call stop.
Here are the total numbers of cruise passengers for other Florida ports in 2022:
Tampa Bay: 418,200
Key West: 198,411
Palm Beach: 188,235