Multiple New Cruise Terminals Transforming PortMiami (Carnival, MSC, Virgin, NCL)

If it’s been a while since you’ve sailed form the cruise port in Miami, don’t be alarmed if you don’t recognize the place the next time you visit.

That’s because Carnival, MSC, and Virgin Voyages, and others are collectively re-shaping PortMiami over the next seveal years.

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In total, five new cruise port terminals are set to open between 2020 and 2022.

The Miami-Dade County Commission approved a raft of port construction proposals at busy hour-long September 19 meeting attended by five cruise industry bosses, including:

  • Carnival’s CEO Arnold Donald
  • MSC USA’s President Roberto Fusaro and Chairman Rick Sasso
  • Norwegian President and CEO Frank Del Rio
  • Tom McAlpin, Virgin Voyages President and CEO

The newly approved deals are expected to create 27,500 jobs, according to Miami’s mayor.

Carnival to Renovate Terminal F

Rendering courtesy of Carnival.

Miami-Dade County Commission approved Carnival Cruise Line’s plans renovating and expanding Cruise Terminal F at PortMiami. The expansion will enable the terminal to service Carnival’s yet-unnamed second Excel-class ship after its delivery in 2022.

(The cruise line’s first Excel-class ship, Mardi Gras, is scheduled to debut next year and has already generated strong interest among cruise fans for its first-at-sea roller coaster, a Cajun-Creole restaurant by Emeril Lagasse and other exciting dining choices, plus a new look for its guest accommodations.)

Carnival’s Excel-class vessels have a 5,000-passenger capacity and are designed to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG). Although LNG technology is known as a low-emissions alternative to conventional marine bunker fuels, only ships designed (or retrofitted) to operate with this kind of fuel can use LNG. Also, not all port facilities have the capability to re-fuel LNG-powered vessels.

In addition to expanding to handle LNG ships, the refurbished Terminal F will have facial recognition technology.

After the expansion and renovation, Terminal F will become Carnival’s third terminal at PortMiami, as well as the cruise line’s largest terminal in North America. Carnival’s Terminal F agreement with PortMiami has a 20-year term, with two 7-year extension options.

With more year-round ships sailing from PortMiami than any other cruise line, Carnival is the largest cruise operator in Miami. In Carnival’s press release about the terminal expansion, President Christine Duffy thanked officials at PortMiami and Miami-Dade County for acting quickly to approve the expansion plans. She noted that the timing of the vote “assures that the new ship and terminal expansion will both arrive in time for Carnival’s 50th anniversary in 2022.”

The cruise line released renderings of the new terminal’s design by Berenblum Busch Architects of Miami. The low-slung building will be outlined after dark with lights in Carnival’s brand colors of red and blue.

The project is scheduled for completion by October 2022.

MSC Constructing a New Double Terminal

MSC announced plans for the construction of a massive double terminal in April of this year, but just received the go-ahead from the Miami-Dade County Commission, at the same meeting where the Commission approved Carnival’s plans.

MSC’s new AA and AAA terminals, each be designed to handle 7,000 guests, will be located just to the east of Royal Caribbean’s Terminal A.

Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises Executive Chairman, stated in the cruise line’s press release that “The new terminal — which will be one of the most innovative the industry has seen — will ensure that we can provide our guests an enhanced end-to-end high-quality experience while both embarking and disembarking, thus adding to their ability to fully enjoy every moment of their vacation.”

The cruise line anticipates their new facilities will enable them to handle two turnaround operations simultaneously, managing as many as 28,000 passenger movements per day. MSC anticipates that with their new double terminal, the cruise line will bring a total 1 million guests through PortMiami each year.

For comparison, the Port of New Orleans handles about 1 million passengers per year.

Renderings of the new MSC facility, by Miami-based Arquitectonica, feature cantilevered fins emerging from the side of a ski-slope shaped building. Work on the two new terminals will begin early next year, and they will open in late 2022.

The cruise line seems to be ramping up their U.S. market. In addition to the new PortMiami construction, MSC has announced it plans 13 ships to join its fleet in the next eight years.

Virgin Voyages Changes the Alphabet for Its New Terminal

Virgin cruise terminal skyline
Rendering courtesy of Virgin Voyages.

Also getting the OK was Virgin Voyage’s request to re-shuffle the alphabet. PortMiami’s Terminal H will be re-named Terminal V at the county-owned port.

This terminal will sit at the far western end of the port complex – right across the causeway from downtown.

Construction is already underway for Virgin’s 100,000-square-foot terminal, also designed by Miami architects Arquitectonica. The new cruise line’s new terminal is scheduled to open in 2021. Virgin’s first ship, Scarlet Lady, will begin sailing from Miami in April of 2020. Scarlet Lady will use a different terminal until Virgin’s new terminal opens.

Virgin’s overall plans for development in the Miami tourism sector include not only their cruise line homeporting in PortMiami, but also a new hotel opening in the Brickell neighborhood in 2023. In addition, Virgin already flies into the Miami airport. The Virgin Group is also a shareholder in Virgin Trains USA (formerly Brightline).

So conceivably, within the next few years, a cruise passenger could travel to Miami via Virgin, stay at a Virgin hotel the night before their cruise, then board a Virgin vessel departing from Terminal V the next day.

Other Upcoming and Recent PortMiami Construction

Renderings courtesy of NCL.com
Renderings courtesy of NCL.

The September 19 meeting also included a new agreement signed between the county and Norwegian Cruise Line. The new deal will begin either when the current construction of NCL’s new Terminal B (announced in 2018) is complete, or on May 29, 2020.

Renderings of that 166,500-square foot building, designed by Miami-based global architecture firm Bermello Ajamil & Partners, showcase a nautilus-inspired design.

This all comes on the heels of Royal Caribbean opening Terminal A at PortMiami to serve its Oasis-class ships. That $250 million new facility has won acclaim both for its design and the ease with which permits passengers to move through it as they embark or disembark.

With more new builds from other cruise lines coming to PortMiami soon, cruise fans will have an opportunity to compare passenger-friendly the new facilities are — as well as their design merits.

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