The North American cruise capacity is expected to grow by some 8 percent in 2007, according to Cruise Industry News' estimates, benefiting some 20 homeports, while others are vying to get into the business, and yet others benefit from calls. In order to accommodate the growth, new terminals are being built, as well as dedicated transportation systems and roadways.

Florida Drives Expansion

The leading Florida ports continue to drive the cruise market and are investing in themselves to accommodate more ships and larger ships, and thus ever more passengers, crew and provisions.

Proposals for the new $1.2 billion one-mile tunnel project that will facilitate traffic into and out of the Port Of Miami are due mid-February, with a contract expected to be awarded in spring, according to Port Director Bill Johnson. The tunnel is expected to be in operation by 2013.

To be awarded as a 35-year concession with the concessionaire financing, building, maintaining and operating the tunnel, Johnson said that the concessionaire would be paid back at intervals over the term of the contract.

Next year, Miami expects some 4 million cruise passengers, compared to 3.7 million in 2006, which in turn was up 3.3 percent over 2005. By 2013, with the tunnel in operation, Johnson said he expects more than 5 million passengers.

Nearby Port Everglades is developing a master plan, looking at the next 10 to 15 years, according to Port Director Phillip C. Allen. The plan, which is expected to be ready in spring, will not only look at how Port Everglades can grow its cruise traffic, but also how it can best balance its cruise, cargo and fuel businesses.

A dedicated roadway or a monorail, from the airport to the cruise port is also being discussed. Port Everglades expects 3.6 million passengers in 2007, including 2.76 million multi-day and 850,000 one-day cruisers. For its last fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, the port counted 3.25 million passengers.

Allen said he was expecting to set a new record with 46,000 passengers in a single day on Dec. 23. "We are expecting a number of busy weekends this season," he said. "There will be 11 days with 11 ships in port, and five days with more than 40,000 passengers disembarking and embarking."

For this fiscal year, starting Oct. 1, 2006, the Port Of Tampa expects 787,000 passengers, according to Greg Lovelace, director of cargo and cruise marketing. Last year, Tampa saw its traffic jump up when ships were redeployed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, boosting passenger numbers to a new record at 910,663 compared to the previous record of 810,114 in2003.

Jacksonville has one ship homeported while it ponders building a new terminal that will allow more ships.

(Port Canaveral could not be reached for comment.)

Double-Digit Growth in the Northwest

The Port Of Seattle is forecasting double-digit growth for 2007 with 800,000 passengers, according to Mike Burke, director of cargo and cruise services. This year, the port counted 735,000 passengers.

While the ships are now sailing from Pier 30 and 66, design work for a new Pier 91 facility to replace 30 is nearly completed. "We hope to start construction next year and be able to open the new terminal in 2008," Burke said. The new terminal is designed to handle 3,500-passenger vessels.

In Canada, the Vancouver Port Authority is expected to merge with the Frazer River and North Fraser River authorities, which will create a much bigger unit, opening up new possibilities in the future, said Greg Wirtz, manager of business development and cruise. So far, the board of directors of the three port authorities has ratified a report recommending their integration into a single Canada Port Authority. The goal is to find ways to make the ports even more globally competitive and capture a larger share of the growing Pacific trade volumes.

"Cruise is an important seasonal business and a huge driver for the economy," Wirtz continued. "We are looking for ways to grow the business and help the industry diversify. There is room to grow and one option is Cruise EC - a group of ports in British Columbia promoting cruises in the region - whereby the lines can diversify their product."

This year, the Port of Vancouver expects some 930,000 cruise passengers, according to Wirtz. That is up more than 10 percent over 2006.

At Prince Rupert projections call for a 75 percent jump in passengers and a 50 percent increase in calls, with 100,000 passengers and 47 large ships calling on more days and staying longer.

"Our goal is to become a primary player in the Alaska theater," said Shaun Stevenson, vice president of marketing and business development. "There is also opportunity for BC to grow and become a major cruise destination in and by itself. The cruise lines are exploring the possibilities," he added.

Added Seattle's Burke: "With the Mercury doing 13 three- and four-day cruises in the fall, we are extending the typical Alaska season by another seven weeks."

Mexican Riviera

A waterfront master plan for Los Angeles, including a new cruise terminal, was previewed at the end of October.

Currently, key environmental elements are being evaluated. Marketing Manager Chris Chase said. "We are looking at the impacts of the development with regard to whether the land use is compatible, the potential for pollution, and construction specifics. The new terminal will be designed to handle larger than Freedom-class ships - though not the Genesis class," Chase said.

For 2007, ship calls and passenger capacity will mirror that of 2006, Chase added, with 260 and 1.1 million, respectively. The port is down somewhat from 2005, when Disney Cruise Line offered West Coast sailings.

Los Angeles has also revised its Clean Air Action Plan, adding a commitment to explore the use of pollution-based impact fees, increase shoreside electricity, and improve emission standards to reduce health risks. The five-year plan will reduce air pollution by at least 45 percent, according to the port.

The Port Of San Diego is also stepping up to the plate, as a new cruise facility on the port's B Street Pier Cruise Terminal is being discussed.

An RFP was awarded to two companies in October, "but neither one offered a proposal toward helping us build," Director of Marketing Rita Vandergaw said, adding that the port is currently looking to create its own partnership with one or more cruise lines.

Gulf Ports

Galveston currently ranks as the number one port on the Gulf with just over 600,000 passengers. "Not only are we now number one in the Gulf, but currently fourth in the U.S., after Miami, Port Everglades and New York City, and rank number 11 in cruise traffic worldwide," noted Galveston Port Director Steve Cemak.

The Port Of Houston is banking on a prosperous future for its cruise business, as the $81 million Bayport Cruise Terminal nears completion. Slated to be ready for operation by fall 2007, the 96,000-square-foot facility is the culmination of the first phase of what is expected to be a three-phase expansion.

"We are looking to sign a contract with a major cruise line sometime early in 2007 and expect that the first ship will begin cruising out of Bayport sometime in 2008," said Wade Battles, managing director of the Port of Houston. The new terminal will also be equipped with a 100-foot-wide dock apron and staging area, while its 33-foot dredged depth is designed to accommodate the newest and biggest cruise vessels. At present, the 1,750-passenger Norwegian Dream sails on a seasonal schedule of Western Caribbean cruises out of a temporary terminal at Barbours Cut.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was the busiest cruise port in the Gulf. "When the hurricane struck we had already received 550,000 passengers and would likely have exceeded the previous year's total of 753,000," said J. Robert Jumonville, director of cruise and tourism.

The city's cruise facilities are in excellent shape, Jumonville said, and the new $37 million, 90,000- square-foot Erato Street Terminal into full operation with the arrival of the first two ships back to New Orleans - the Norwegian Sun followed by the CarnivalFantasy in October.

Corpus Christi has big plans as a future homeport. The big news is the closing of the Engleside naval station, which will be returned to the city in 2010. According to Corpus Christi Director of Business Development Michael Perez, Engleside offers tremendous potential for reconfiguration into a cruise terminal.

Mobile, which homeports one ship, is now seeking to become a multi-ship port, according to Al St. Clair, director of the cruise terminal.

East Coast

The Port Of Norfolk has completed more than 70 percent of its new $36 million cruise facility - the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center - slated to open in March, said Stephen Kirkland, manager of cruise operations.

Passenger capacity for 2007 is expected to climb to 90,000 - compared to 75,000 in 2006, "because that was the main year for construction here," Kirkland said - although there will be fewer calls in 2007 - 25 - compared to 30 in 2006, as the port will be receiving bigger ships.

Baltimore's new $13 million, 60,000-squarefoot passenger terminal opened this past May, and has been getting "rave reviews" from Royal Caribbean, according to John Meister, manager, cruise and special events. In 2007, Baltimore is expected to have 29 cruise calls and 130,000 passengers.

Charleston expects permits to be issued for a new three berth, 280-acre container terminal on the former Charleston Naval Complex by April, and according to the Port of Charleston's Co-Manager of Cruise Development Suzanne Kaiser, "there are great hopes for us to have a new cruise facility as well." In 2007, the port is expecting 90,000 passengers.

Philadelphia has completed a master plan to address the requirements created by a continued increase in cruise business. Port Director Kate McNamara said. The plan includes a new finger pier, she said, adding that its specifics were still being finalized. The port expects 19 calls in 2007.

While New York's Manhattan Passenger Ship Terminal was the only major passenger ship terminal in the city for decades, metropolitan New York now has three terminals - Manhattan, plus Brooklyn and Bayonne, New Jersey.

With aging piers and limited space, the Manhattan facility is also being redone. According to Kate Ascher, the New York City Economic Development Corporation's executive vice president for infrastructure, the rebuilding of the cruise ship terminal has begun with Pier 88, a $135 million project, to be finished by late 2007. Pier 90, with $38 million of improvements planned, comes next and will eventually be able to handle three large ships.

For 2006, Manhattan and Brooklyn are expected to handle 1,002,260 passengers. The figures are estimated to rise to more than 1.1 million in 2007. Cape Liberty Cruise Port (Bayonne) will have handled nearly 320,000 passengers in 2006, up 11 percent over the previous year.

In Boston, Marcia Duffy, director of cruise marketing, said that 2006, with the cruise season stretching from May to the end of November, generated about 200,000 passengers, roughly divided between turnarounds and as a port of call by ships based in other East Coast ports and elsewhere. 225,000 are expected for 2007.

The terminal can presently handle four to five ships at one time. A second terminal, connected to the central building, designed for post-Panamax ships, is expected to be operational in 2008.

Atlantic Canada

Cruise ships also turn around in Montreal and at the Port Of Quebec, while other Canadian ports in the region are benefiting from calls. "We had another record year," said Martine Belanger, director of cruise marketing with the Quebec Port Authority, noting 66,000 passengers this year with an increase expected in 2007.

Terminal construction is also underway in Saint John, New Brunswick and in Halifax.