Disney Cruise Line has agreed to sail a ship of at least 3,500 passengers from Miami on a year-round basis, starting in 2023.

It will be the first time Disney deploys a ship year-round from a homeport other than Port Canaveral, Fla.

The agreement, approved by the Miami-Dade County Commission on Sept. 6, also gives Disney first rights to build a new terminal on the south side of the port to the east of the existing Terminal J, which caters to small cruise ships.

Disney is expected to begin year-round four- and five-day cruises from Miami in 2023, followed by the addition of a second, seasonal ship in January 2024 that would sail three- and four-day cruises.

Disney is building three ships scheduled for delivery in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

As a year-round operator from Miami, Disney would join Carnival Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. 

The agreement guarantees the port at least 360,000 Disney passenger movements per year starting in 2023. At that point, the agreement would yield the county-run port $7.2 million a year.

In fiscal 2017, PortMiami handled 5.3 million passenger movements, making it the busiest cruise port in the world. Port Canaveral had 4.5 million passenger movements in its fiscal 2017.

In the past, Disney has cruised seasonally from Miami and plans to bring the 2,700-passenger Disney Magic to PortMiami starting Dec. 4.

Construction of a new terminal on the port's south side depends on widening the ship channel and turning basin on that side of the port and the acquisition of cargo land currently under lease to Seaboard Marine, the agreement said.

If construction isn't viable, or is unsuitable, Disney and the port will explore options on the north side, where all of the larger cruise ships currently dock. 

In a summary, the port said success of the project "is extremely important to the port as the addition of a new cruise terminal will allow the port to welcome more vessels and grow its current cruise business."

New terminals are already under construction on the north side for Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, and plans are in the works for a new terminal for MSC.


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