“We had a terrific 2015 with the return of Carnival in the spring and fall,” said Stephen Kirkland, executive director of Nauticus which oversees port operations in Norfolk.
“Our community came together to welcome them back and most importantly, sales were strong. In particular, there’s really high demand here in Virginia and nearby North Carolina for more Bermuda product,” he said.
Kirkland is more excited about the arrival of the Carnival Sunshine this year, a ship he worked on when it was the Carnival Destiny.
“So to see her here in Norfolk will be pretty special,” he added.
There is also a growing transit call business at the port from European lines, with AIDA leading the way, with the most popular shore excursion for German passengers being a bicycle tour.
“With AIDA, we’ve really tried to roll out the red carpet for our German-speaking guests,” Kirkland explained. “We have translators at the terminal and our tour excursion company tries to have German-speaking staff when possible. Even our downtown mall has gotten into the act – they teach their sales associates to say ‘welcome’ and ‘thank you’ in German prior to each call.”
TUI Cruises has taken notice and has booked calls into Norfolk in late 2017.
The port is working to grow its homeport business with what Kirkland said was mid-Atlantic potential, while at the same time putting an emphasis on more transit calls.
“Fuel costs from Norfolk to Bermuda are minimal,” he continued. “Additional itineraries are also feasible since we’re right at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. We’re also located within an easy drive of the mid-Atlantic, especially for our neighbors in North Carolina, and we’ve got a downtown terminal that’s within walking distance of hundreds of hotel rooms.”