Charleston to End Cruise Homeport in 2024

Charleston ends cruise homeport
Carnival Ecstasy sailed from Charleston before the cruise line switched in a larger ship in 2019 (SC Ports file photo)

Published May 26, 2022 4:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

The South Carolina Ports Authority and the port of Charleston announced a new redevelopment effort for a part of the city’s waterfront that however means Charleston will no longer be serving as a homeport for Carnival Cruise Lines. Residents, fans of the cruises, and local businesses expressed their disappointment but port officials said that with the redevelopment they had determined that there was no longer the place to provide a homeport once their current contract ends with Carnival in 2024.

“Since 2010, Carnival has been a great business partner and worked alongside our maritime community to benefit our overall maritime commerce mission,” said Kelsi Brewer, a spokeswoman for the SC Ports. “As we look to the future, SC Ports will continue to evaluate the market and looks forward to continued partnerships and opportunities.”

Charleston had played an important role for the cruise line for the past 12 years. It provided a homeport as part of the deployment strategy in which the line positions ships near large U.S. population bases along the East and West Coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. By positioning cruise ships around the United States, Carnival Cruise Line reported that roughly half the U.S. population was within a day’s drive from one of its homeports.

"It is amazing to see the continued growth of Charleston’s tourism economy, and Carnival is proud to have been a part it of since 2010,” the cruise line said in a statement responding to the announcement from the South Carolina Ports Authority. “While exciting for the future of Charleston, the redevelopment of Union Pier Terminal will unfortunately mean Carnival will no longer homeport a ship in Charleston. We will work with the Ports Authority to explore future opportunities in Charleston. In the meantime, it is business as usual and we look forward to seeing our guests aboard Carnival Sunshine through 2024."

Charleston is Carnival and the cruise industry’s primary southeastern port and for Carnival lies between its homeports in Jacksonville, Florida, and Norfolk, Virginia. Carnival resumed sailing after the pandemic from Charleston on January 13, 2022. The cruise line offers trips ranging between four and eight nights from the port.

Carnival based its first cruise ship in Charleston 12 years ago initially using the 70,000 gross ton Carnival Fantasy and later Carnival Ecstasy. However, starting in 2019 the cruise line rearranged its deployments sending one of its highest capacity cruise ships, the Carnival Sunshine, to Charleston for year-round cruises. The 102,850 gross ton cruise ship has a normal capacity of 3,000 passengers. The cruise line reports that she will continue to sail from Charleston through the end of its contract with the port in 2024.