South Florida's peak cruise season nears kickoff

Sun Sentinel

South Florida's peak cruise season is right around the corner and cruise lines are rolling out new food and beverage programs and dining and entertainment options to attract potential and repeat cruisers.

During the busy October-through-April period, some local seaports also will welcome a new cruise ship, and some existing ships will make first-time stops there.

All this adds up to more choices for consumers looking to cruise soon.

"Cruise lines are offering ways for customers to customize their [vacation] experiences more and more," said Miami-based cruise industry specialist Stewart Chiron of all the new offerings available.

At Port Everglades, a highlight of the upcoming season will be the Nov. 5th naming ceremony for Princess Cruises' newest ship — Regal Princess — which entered service in Europe in May. Beginning Nov. 9, Regal Princess will sail on a series of seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruises through April 25.

The 3,560-passenger ship will be the seventh Princess ship to be named at the Fort Lauderdale seaport. The original cast of the popular 1970-80s TV show "The Love Boat" will serve as its godparents, including Gavin MacLeod, Fred Grandy and Ted Lange.

The christening ceremony kicks off festivities for Princess' 50th anniversary in 2015.

"It's another nice ship, with a very stately design," Chiron said of Regal. "I enjoyed sailing [twice] on her sister ship Royal Princess very much."

Other changes at the port includ day-cruise operator Resorts World Bimini Superfast beginning sailings between Port Everglades and Bimini in the Bahamas on Oct. 14. Trips will run every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

In early December, the port's cruise terminal 4 will reopen after a $24 million renovation that included a high-efficiency air conditioning system, 50 check-in counters and two new loading bridges to speed passenger processing.

"We look forward to a busy cruise season again this year, especially once our newly renovated cruise terminal 4 opens and our guests experience improved access and a much more efficient transportation flow," Port Everglades Chief Executive & Port Director Steven Cernak said.

For the new fiscal year that runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2015, the port is expecting 3.9 million cruise passenger moves (embark, debark and in-transit) across 42 cruise ships.

On Dec. 19, a smaller Princess ship — the 672-guest Ocean Princess — will make its first call at Port Everglades, followed by another first-timer, Carnival Conquest.

The Carnival Cruises Lines' 3,700-passenger ship will take over Carnival Freedom's six-and-eight-day Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale starting in January, the Miami-based cruise operator said. Freedom is relocating to Galveston, Texas.

Port Everglades also will have a strong lineup of longer cruises in 2015, with five ships departing on world and grand cruises starting in early January. Among them is Holland America Line's ms Prinsendam that departs Jan. 3 on a 68-day Grand South America and Antarctica Voyage, which includes 31 ports in 11 countries.

At Port of Palm Beach, officials expect about 340,000 multiday cruise passengers in the 2015 budget year. The port's sole cruise operator, Celebration Cruise Line, sails to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.

The Riviera Beach port is in negotiations with another potential cruise operator.

"We consistently work to identify opportunities to expand our cruise business at the port, whether it be intracoastal cruises, day or multiday cruises, or as a port of call for a cruise line," Executive Director Manuel Almira said.

Next month, the port's day-casino gaming boat, Island Breeze II, is slated to resume service before Halloween after several weeks in drydock, a company spokesperson said Wednesday.

At PortMiami, highlights of the winter cruise season include the arrival of the 2,144-passenger Costa Mediterranea, which will join the 2,826-guest Costa Luminosa for a season of 10-, 11- and 12-night Caribbean cruises starting in December.

"Our longer Caribbean itineraries are the best options to see the whole region in a relaxed and pampered atmosphere," said Scott Knutson, a Costa Cruises North America vice president. "By offering extended cruises on two ships, we're giving guests more time to experience the Caribbean the Costa way.

asatchell@tribpub.com, 954-356-4209 or Twitter@TheSatchreport.

Copyright © 2017, CT Now