PORT CANAVERAL — Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise lines have reached deals to expand their operations at Port Canaveral.
“It’s exciting. We’re thrilled,” Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Walsh said, after announcing the agreements at Wednesday’s Canaveral Port Authority meeting.
The deals will boost Brevard County’s seaport in its effort to become the world’s busiest, based on the number of cruise passengers, ahead of the Port of Miami and Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale.
Walsh said the deal with Norwegian calls for the company to base a cruise ship at Port Canaveral, starting in the winter of 2015. Norwegian is likely to announce which ship during a cruise industry conference next month.
In addition, Walsh said, Norwegian agreed tocontinue making port-of-call stops at Port Canaveral with two of its New York-based ships for at least the next three years.
Norwegian currently has no ships based at Port Canaveral, and had no long-term commitment for port-of-call stops for the New York ships.
Meanwhile, Walsh said, Royal Caribbean has agreed on a 10-year contract that will more than double the guaranteed annual revenue to Port Canaveral. In 2013, the company guaranteed $7 million to the port. That number will grow to $18.4 million in 2024.
Royal Caribbean also will provide an additional $48 million to the port over the next decade as part of an agreement to become the primary user of the new Cruise Terminal 1, scheduled to open in November. That revenue will come from a $4 to $5 fee on tickets for Royal Caribbean passengers using Port Canaveral. The port plans to use the $48 million to help pay for construction of the $68.5 million terminal complex, which is just east of the Cove restaurant district. That cost includes site work, the gangways and an adjacent 1,000-vehicle parking garage.
Royal Caribbean currently has two ships based at Port Canaveral, and will base a third ship here starting in November for 26 voyages. It also will have port-of-call service by two other ships — one sailing from New Jersey, the other from Baltimore.
The deal gives Royal Caribbean the flexibility to move ships into Port Canaveral, and could open up the possibility for Port Canaveral to attract Royal Caribbean’s largest ships.
“I’ve literally heard four or five scenarios” on how the shifting of Royal Caribbean ships could affect Port Canaveral, Walsh said. “For us, it’s a win-win, without tying their hands on flexibility.”
Royal Caribbean will get preferred scheduling at the 188,514-square-foot Cruise Terminal 1, which is being designed to accommodate the world’s largest cruise ships. But other cruise lines also will use the terminal, Walsh said.
Walsh said port commissioners likely will vote on the Norwegian and Royal Caribbean deals next month.