One of the US's busiest cruise ports can't keep up with America's love for vacations at sea — but an urgent new terminal will help meet the demand for giant cruise ships

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Port Canaveral unveiled new plans to build a cruise terminal at one of its existing berths, scrapping its initial proposal because it would've taken longer to construct.Canaveral Port AuthorityPort Canaveral announced new plans to build a seventh cruise terminal by 2026.It scrapped its initial expansion plan because it would've taken longer to build.This article is part of "Transforming Business: Infrastructure," a series exploring the advancements reshaping US infrastructure. Florida — home to busy beaches, Disney World, and a cruise industry so successful that local ports simply can't keep up with demand.The Sunshine State flexes seven cruise ports, three of which — Miami, Canaveral, and Everglades — are among the five busiest in the world.The state may seem well stocked as far as cruise terminals go. But Port Canaveral is running out of space as demand for these vacation voyages continues to skyrocket.In 2023, the Florida port accommodated a record 6.8 million cruisers and 13 homeported ships, leading to an all-time-high revenue of $191 million — more than 80% of which came from its cruise operations.In 2024, it expects to add another 500,000 passengers to that total.The influx in demand has left Port Canaveral at "a point where we're starting to turn business away," John Murray, its CEO, said at a press conference earlier this month.The proposed solution? Expand — and quickly. The port announced plans to build a seventh cruise terminal on its north side by 2026, scrapping its initial proposal for one farther south. The latter would've taken longer to build, but "we need it in two years," Murray said, adding: "Maybe sooner."The project includes extending the North 8 berth's existing bulkhead to 1,344 feet long. This would allow the neighboring terminal to accommodate larger ships.Canaveral Port AuthorityThe proposed terminal would be at the port's "underutilized" North 8 berth. When complete, it could accommodate the world's largest cruise ships, including Royal Caribbean's new 1,198-foot-long, 9,950-person-capacity Icon of the Seas.Murray said the project would be "self-funded." There's no word yet on the cost, but a spokesperson for Port Canaveral told Business Insider that the existing berth would make construction cheaper than that of previous cruise terminals. The most recent one, completed in 2020, cost $155 million.Before unveiling these plans, Port Canaveral intended to build its next terminal in an area known as Bluepoints Marina, farther south. The project would've taken three to four years to complete — too long a timeline for Port Canaveral.A new cruise terminal "has become more urgent and necessary now," Murray said.Royal Caribbean's second-largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas, sailed out of Port Canaveral in 2023.Brittany Chang/Business InsiderAlong with a seventh terminal, Port Canaveral plans to build a 3,000-car parking structure and improve the roads leading into and out of the parking lot.Expanding parking on land is just as important as in the water: Cruise lines have been increasingly developing private islands and destinations in the Caribbean, often visited during three- and four-day cruises. Murray said these shorter sailings typically bring in more vehicular traffic than their five- to seven-day counterparts.Wooing cruise lines operating on these itineraries could be especially important for Port Canaveral, which is farther north from the private Caribbean destinations than Miami's and Fort Lauderdale's popular ports.Competition is stiff. In January, MSC Group announced that its cruise lines would move their operations to Miami. In late 2023, Disney Cruise Line unveiled a new terminal at Port Everglades."A place like Port Canaveral is continually thinking about retaining the business it has and, of course, capturing some of that business," Ross Klein, the founder of CruiseJunkie.com and a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, told BI.But not everyone is excitedPort Canaveral says its new cruise terminal is set to be completed in 2026.UCG/Getty ImagesWhile an influx of travelers can be an economic windfall for nearby restaurants and hotels, not all locals are happy about the new cruise terminal.The world's largest cruise ships can accommodate more than 7,000 guests. That's a lot of travelers — and traffic, which is a concern for Jamie Glasner, the owner of the Bluepoints Marina-based fishing charter Fin and Fly. (BI spoke with Glasner before Port Canaveral announced its terminal in the North 8 berth.)"These cruise ships come in, and the traffic is backed up for miles," Glasner told BI, adding that other local business owners complained "about it all the time.""The traffic is a nightmare. This is crazy," he said."It used to only take us 10 minutes to get home," Glasner said. "Now it's taking me an hour."Cruise travelers accounted for roughly 840,000 cars at Port Canaveral last year, Murray said in late 2023. At the time, he said that updates such as a "pay-on-arrival" parking system and the increased use of facial recognition by US Customs and Border Protection helped improve the flow of traffic.To lessen traffic stress, the port wants the state to widen the nearby freeway and replace the drawbridge connecting the north and south halves of Port Canaveral with a higher, fixed bridge. The latter often opens for passing ships, further jamming up the roads.However, these proposals have yet to be included in the Florida Department of Transportation's budget, "so we will continue to make noise on that," Murray said during the announcement of the port's seventh cruise terminal. "We can't shut down operations at Port Canaveral because the state can't get the road infrastructure in a timely manner," he added.But love it or hate it, the cruise industry continues to grow. And the sooner Port Canaveral can build a new terminal, the happier it, and cruise lines, will be."We're going to do what we have to do to get this up and running as quickly as possible," Murray told reporters.Read the original article on Business Insider

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