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Show Me the Way

Boosting the “arrival experience” for passengers has become a priority.

Voyager of the Seas at Port of Galveston. Credit: Robert Mihovil
Voyager of the Seas at Port of Galveston. Credit: Robert Mihovil

By Tom Peters 2019-04-18 17:26:59

(Article originally published in Jan/Feb 2019 edition.)

In 1975 British rock star Peter Frampton released the song, “Show Me the Way.” The hit was about a young man lost in his emotions. Port Everglades’ officials probably weren’t thinking of Frampton’s tune when they developed a new program, to be released this year, that will show cruisers and others the way to their destinations. But like Frampton’s song, they hope it will be a big hit.

Dubbed “Wayfinding with Style,” the port worked with Broward County’s Cultural Division to create interpretive art solutions for directional signage. “The result will be colorful Florida environmental images to create an intuitive and colorful visual map for port visitors to find their destinations,” says Ellen Kennedy, the port’s Assistant Director of Business Development & Communications. “In addition, the port is improving its outdoor aesthetics with art installations at the security entrances and within several highly visible medians and roadside locations.”

Maximizing the Arrival Experience

Port Everglades is the third largest cruise port in the world. In fiscal 2019, it’s expected to handle 3.75 million passengers. The cruise industry estimates 30 million people will cruise in 2019, an increase of six percent over 2018. Cruise Lines International Association member companies are expected to launch 18 new vessels this year with dozens more on the orderbooks for coming years.

It’s growth like this, in both people and ships, that’s driving ports like Everglades to improve their signage and infrastructure to meet the rigorous and ever-changing demands of a multibillion-dollar industry.

As the industry responds to consumer demand for larger vessels with more incredible amenities like roller coasters, zip lines and water parks,” says Doug Wheeler, President & CEO of the Florida Ports Council, “port infrastructure must keep up in order to accept these vessels. Channels must be deep enough, berths strong enough, terminals modern, glossy and in line with the expectations of cruise passengers who seek an exceptional experience. The sheer logistics of debarking and embarking 4,000-plus-passenger vessels requires cruise terminals that can process those passengers in a smooth and timely manner.”

Everglades echoes those challenges.

Our greatest challenge at Port Everglades is to maximize our berth and cruise terminal capacity to accommodate the growing number of larger cruise ships and the continued popularity of Caribbean cruising,” says Chief Executive & Port Director Steve Cernak. “Currently we are working with the cruise lines and other stakeholders to update our 20-year Master Vision Plan to see what operational and capital improvements we can realistically undertake to complement the plans the lines have for the next generation of cruise ships. The ultimate beneficiaries will be the guests.”

While Everglades works on future challenges, it’s already made inroads on modernization at two of its terminals including the first and only cruise terminal in the world specially equipped for Carnival Corporation’s new Ocean Medallion™ interactive wearable technology service. Carnival recently completed an extensive, multimillion dollar redesign and upgrade of Cruise Terminal 2 so that guests can begin their personalized Ocean Medallion experience as soon as they enter the building.

The retrofitted terminal, used mainly by the company’s Princess Cruises brand, features a movie theater and more comfortable preboarding areas, transforming guests' experiences as they prepare to depart.

"When our guests arrive at the terminal excited about their cruise, that's a great opportunity for us to begin immersing them in a more personalized and hassle-free vacation experience," says John Padgett, Chief Experience & Innovation Officer for Carnival Corporation. "We have completely transformed the arrival so that our guests can board at a pace that's more relaxed and convenient for them. Our focus is on the entire guest experience with a special emphasis on making the arrival experience exceptional."

Cruise Terminal 25 at Port Everglades completed a total renovation in time for the arrival of the new Celebrity Edge in November. The renovation increased terminal size by 83 percent to 157,800 square feet. At a cost of approximately $120 million, it’s the largest financial investment the port has made in a cruise terminal. In addition to the Celebrity ships, the terminal will be able to accommodate other ships up to 1,150 feet in length.

Cruise Capital of the World

At PortMiami, recognized as the “Cruise Capital of the World,” growth is at full speed, says PortMiami Director Juan Kuryla. The latest news has MSC Cruises and Miami-Dade County signing a letter of intent to build a large terminal, possibly two, to accommodate two mega cruise ships simultaneously. Kuryla says MSC’s project, when complete, likely in 2020, would bring an estimated 1.5 million passengers through PortMiami each year. Last year PortMiami set another world record with nearly 5.4 million passengers.

The port is busy expanding its footprint for the next generation of cruise ships. Royal Caribbean Cruises, in collaboration with Miami-Dade County, officially opened Terminal A, the largest in the U.S., which will serve as homeport to some of Royal Caribbean's largest ships.

Another major enhancement is Norwegian Cruise Line’s Cruise Terminal B, the “Pearl of Miami,” currently under construction and scheduled to open in February of next year. A memorandum of understanding with Disney Cruise Line calls for two new ships and a possible new terminal as well. And Virgin Voyages has proposed building a 100,000-square-foot terminal in 2021 for its new cruise ships, the Scarlet Lady and an unnamed sister ship.

PortMiami is moving in many exciting directions,” says Kuryla. “It’s full speed ahead, charting a strong and steady course and looking forward to a new era of growth and prosperity for both the cruise and cargo sides of our industry.”

Ten Million Passengers

In December, the Port of Galveston marked two major cruise events: the embarkation of its ten-millionth passenger since cruise operations began in 2000 and the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Royal Caribbean for the development of a new cruise terminal.

The new terminal will cover approximately 200,000 square feet on 10 acres of land in the southeast section of the port known as Pier 10. Improvements will be made to the pier bulkhead and apron in addition to the construction of a staging and loading area, bus and taxi staging areas and substantial parking. The new state-of-the-art facility is expected to open in late 2021.

This new cruise terminal allows the port to continue investing in our infrastructure while growing our cruise business exponentially,” notes Port Director & CEO Rodger Rees. This partnership will bring both larger class ships as well as more visitors to the Galveston and the surrounding region.”

Royal Caribbean currently has two ships that sail out of Galveston – Liberty of the Seas, the largest to sail from the state of Texas, and Vision of the Seas.

Big Apple

The Port of New York and New Jersey, which had a great year in 2018 with 1.2 million passengers, is prepping for new capital projects at both the Manhattan and Brooklyn cruise terminals, says Chris Singleton of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

Ports America will invest $15 million in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal by expanding the apron, bringing in improved boarding bridges and enhancing the overall passenger experience,” he notes. “Furthermore, we have a $10 million grant to expand the pier to accommodate XL class ships as well as $2.1 million from the Borough of Brooklyn for passenger throughput upgrades.”

At the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, “Ports America will invest $23.5 million, which will be used for an additional apron and interior upgrades to Pier 90,” Singleton adds. “The goal is to both accommodate the most modern class of vessels while maintaining the versatility to handle small and medium-sized vessels.”

Singleton says, “Our greatest challenge relates to the positive growth forecast for the industry and specifically with regard to making the necessary infrastructural improvements to meet increasing demand in the New York cruise market.”

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The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.