A brand-new Cruise Terminal 3 sits awaiting Carnival’s new Mardi Gras when it arrives at Port Canaveral.
Custom-built for Carnival, the 180,000-square-foot terminal means Port Canaveral has six fully functioning cruise terminals ready to homeport ships.
And when the ships do start sailing in the United States, Captain John Murray, port CEO, said he expects changes in a November interview.
“We have ideas on plexiglass shields, expanding screening areas, and more, but we do not have anything truly definitive yet,” he said, noting the port has costed out scenarios but it essentially is waiting for its cruise customers to set the requirements, which will most likely be based on CDC guidelines.
Murray said Port Canaveral was on standby, waiting to make changes and adjustments if needed to port schedules.
Turnaround days could become two-day turns, for instance.
The pause in service in 2020 was used to modify and upgrade Cruise Terminal 8 at Port Canaveral. The set of updates for the Disney terminal was done with bond money, funded just before the March “No Sail” order.
While some of the project was scaled back, the terminal is now more modern and bigger, ready for Disney’s next generation of ships, Murray said. New boarding bridges were also expected to be ready for 2021.
More ship news is the arrival of MSC Cruises for a year-round presence in Port Canaveral, marking a new customer. MSC plans to rotate ships, with the Seaside sailing in the winter and the Divina taking over in the summer with varying-length sailings.
Port Canaveral may be in the strongest position of any port for a restart.
Reaching a large drive-to market, Murray said he expected cruises to get shorter (under seven days) and head mostly to private islands in the Bahamas, putting Port Canaveral in a very good position.
“We are three hours north of the (South Florida) ports,” he said. “Why drive all the way to the south? What we know is we are going to have a desirable fleet of ships sailing out of Port Canaveral, some of the best ships are going to be here, and it’s easier to get here.
“The restart will be in places that can offer three- to four-day cruises and head to private islands for the social bubble, and attract the drive-in market, which for us has been 65 percent.”