PortMiami Reclaims Title of Busiest Cruise Port with Growth Continuing

PortMiami cruise ships
PortMiami hosting eight cruise ships as the port set a record in 2023 for the number of passengers handled (PortMiami)

Published Dec 11, 2023 5:19 PM by The Maritime Executive


PortMiami reclaimed its position as the world’s busiest cruise port in 2022-2023 reaching nearly 7.3 million passengers for the first time in its history. The whopping 82 percent increase of the prior year was further evidence of the full resurgence of the cruise industry this year while indicators are that the port will experience another significant increase in the year ahead.

The cruise industry continued its rebound from the pandemic with most major cruise lines reporting capacity passenger lists for most of 2023 at higher prices and strong advance bookings. At the same time, the industry continued to introduce new ships, and as the calendar year comes to an end many of the ships are repositioning to the Caribbean for the winter season. Some are homeporting in Miami, with the port hosting three new ships in a matter of days.

For the FY between October 2022 and September 2023, PortMiami handled a total of 7.3 million passengers (embarkations and disembarkation plus in-transit counts). It was nearly seven percent above the previous record in FY 2019 when the port handled just over 6.8 million passengers. Last fiscal year, however, Miami had about 4.07 million passengers.

While PortMiami was working to rebuild its passenger counts, Port Canaveral to the north is also showing strong growth with many of the largest cruise lines sending newer and bigger ships to the port. Port Canaveral was also the first U.S. cruise port prepared to handle LNG giving it an early advantage in attracting new cruise ships. Miami began its first LNG operations with the introduction of the Carnival Celebration in November 2022.

Last year, Port Canaveral surpassed PortMiami for the first time with a total of more than 4.2 million passengers. Port Canaveral, however, hosts more 3- and 4-day cruises helping it to grow its total passenger counts. For FY 2022-2023, Port Canaveral continued its growth reaching an all-time high with 6.8 million cruise passengers, homeporting 13 ships, and receiving 906 ship calls. Canaveral looks for strong growth with more cruise lines and larger ships, but PortMiami is also preparing for another wave of growth.

During the pandemic, PortMiami working with the cruise lines developed three new or replacement terminals, ones for Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, and Virgin Voyages. Royal Caribbean Group which had opened a new terminal shortly before the pandemic is now poised to cooperate in a new Terminal G at PortMiami. MSC is building and will open in 2024 what will be the largest cruise terminal and the port has committed to building a tenth berth for that terminal to be shared with other cruise lines.

PortMiami set two new daily records in 2023, first at nearly 59,000 passengers in February and 67,500 in April. However, with the new ships that record might fall next weekend ahead of the holiday season cruises. PortMiami will have a full house on December 17 with nine cruise ships which have the potential for a total of more than 70,000 passengers if the ships are at maximum capacity (60,000 at double occupancy) and that is not counting the approximately 11,500 crewmembers that work on those ships.

Calendar 2024 will also start with another record as the Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship begins sailing year-round from Miami. Her sistership Star of the Seas will be based in Port Canaveral however starting in 2025.

PortMiami also highlights that it is getting ready to start providing shore power to reduce emissions. Beginning in 2024, the port will be able to offer shore power to up to three cruise ships at one time. Shore power is being installed at five of the port’s terminals.