Port Everglades was looking to book just under 3.9 million cruise passengers for fiscal year 2016, up slightly from 2015.
This year is trending the same way, with an additional ship, making it four, in the port in the summer, which is big news for the local tourism industry.
With growth coming in other markets, Port Director and CEO Steven M. Cernak said he was expecting the North American market to start growing again in 2018.
“What we’re doing here is positioning ourselves to be part of that growth,” he told Cruise Industry News.
The port has opened its checkbook for renovations on Terminal 4, with a $13.4 million slip extension set to allow bigger ships.
And in 2017, the port will welcome two luxury customers with the debut of the Silver Muse, and the return of Crystal Cruises after an 11-year absence.
Last August, Carnival Corporation and the port extended their agreement to 2030.
“It puts a framework in place for Carnival Corp. and Port Everglades to explore and evaluate options to expand Terminal 21 to handle larger ships,” Cernak said.
There is also movement on Terminal 29 to evaluate potential opportunities, he said.
Future-proofing, Cernak also has his eyes on LNG infrastructure.
“We support that,” he said. “There are lots of entities that have been here to discuss the option. We are fully open to it. We’ve done research and I’ve had staff travel to other countries to see it in operation. Certainly the cruise lines have broached the topic, but nothing is firm and concrete. There are lots of players at the table that need to come together to make it a reality. It’s the fuel of the future. It’s inevitable.”
Last season, the port broke its own world record not once, but twice, culminating in a Sunday in March with 55,885 turnaround passengers.
“That’s a busy day in the office,” Cernak said, seizing the opportunity, and adding that ships would get bigger and carry more passengers.
“We see breaking our own records as a continuous phenomena,” he said. “There is room for traffic on other days and we are looking at that. There are opportunities out there to expand into weekdays and that will probably grow as the cruise industry grows. There are certain markets where there are berth constraints appearing on the horizon and at some point it will spill over to Fridays and Mondays.”
Port Everglades has also made technology a key focus, and is well ahead of other ports when it comes to adopting new programs from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including Global Entry and now, Mobile Passport Control.
“The idea is to make it a pleasurable experience for the cruise customer,” said Cernak. “When they come back from their cruise, we want to get them through the vetting process with CBP as quickly as possible.
“We are trying to get ahead of the curve and keep our reputation as cruise passenger centric. The only way to streamline that process is to jump on these programs and take advantage of them.”