The big news about cruise options this spring and summer is that more lines are basing their best ships in Florida ports and keeping them here year-round.
Just in the past year, PortMiami has welcomed the 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze, 3,877-passenger MSC Divina and 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway, all offering year-round Caribbean sailings. Florida has always had year-round cruise options, but often on older ships while the marquee ships left for Europe or Alaska.
Florida's climate and the constant influx of tourism offers cruise lines a lot of enticement. From March-September, Florida's five ports will see 75 ships from 17 cruise lines. That number, though, dwindles to 22 ships from six cruise lines after May.
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"Florida has long held the distinction of being the top cruise state in the country, home to the top three cruise ports in the world — Port Everglades, PortMiami and Port Canaveral," said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association. "Florida's ports offer prime positioning and close proximity to the Caribbean and they are each served by major international airports."
Carnival alone keeps 10 ships sailing out of five Florida ports through the summer, with the Breeze and the soon-to-arrive Carnival Sunshine at Port Canaveral among the line's best ships at sea.
"We're constantly working with all the ports to see if there are ways to get additonal berths," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation.
Port Everglades has been home to the 5,400-passenger Royal Caribbean Oasis and Allure of the Seas year-round since their debuts in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The Allure of the Seas will be leaving Fort Lauderdale for the first time in 2015, but even then it will be replaced by the new Anthem of the Seas by fall 2015. Royal Caribbean also sails four other ships out of the state's big three ports.
Norwegian Cruise Line will sail both the Getaway and the Sky from PortMiami, while Princess keeps the Caribbean Princess through the summer out of Port Everglades.
Disney Cruise Line, with its ties to Orlando's Walt Disney World, has always based its biggest ships at Port Canaveral. Having grown to a four-ship fleet, the line has sailed the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy on Caribbean itineraries year-round since their debut as well, only sending its older ships the Magic and Wonder on seasonal itineraries.
Sailing out of Florida ports also gives the lines the opportunity to use their private Bahamas island resorts, something Disney Cruise Line president Karl Holz said remains very popular with the guests.
"The fact of the matter is we continue to focus on delivering our brand of cruise vacation and we're happy with where we are," Holz said about the line's focus on the Caribbean. "We're still pleased with how people are responding to the product that we have available."
Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian are all keeping their newest ships in Florida for the long haul.
"Florida is well-positioned to maintain and expand its status as the nation's leading cruise state," Duffy said. "This is already being realized through infrastructure improvements, including providing easy access between airports and ports, the capacity to accommodate increasingly large cruise vessels, good year-round weather and proximity to the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Mexico as well as its popularity with domestic and international visitors."