Finding a port capable of handling the
world's two largest cruise ships, which can each carry more than
8,000 passengers and crew, might seem a formidable task.
But there is no
shortage of ports that would love to accept the
On Aug. 8, Fort
Lauderdale's Port Everglades said it would enter into negotiations
with Royal Caribbean Cruises to win homeport status for Royal
Caribbean International's two Genesis-class ships, the $1.2
billion, 5,400-passenger vessels that are scheduled to debut in
2009 and 2010.
including correspondence between Royal Caribbean and the port, have
recently been made public, offering a glimpse into how cruise lines
choose ports. The documents also reveal that a contract to homeport
these megaships is expected to mean thousands of local jobs,
millions of dollars in terminal improvement costs and bragging
rights for years.
In response to
queries from Travel Weekly, Royal Caribbean would say only that it
was holding preliminary, fact-finding talks with several ports
about homeporting the as-yet-unnamed Genesis-class ships. The
company declined to say where Port Everglades stood in the
"Port Everglades is
merely asking the Broward County Commission for permission to
proceed with further discussions," Royal Caribbean said in a
statement. "We appreciate Port Everglades' interest, and we look
forward to talking to them further."
Phillip Allen, Port
Everglades' director, expressed confidence that Fort Lauderdale was
Royal Caribbean's first choice.
Caribbean has not committed to closing off negotiations with
anybody else," he said in an interview, " ... assuming that we can
come to terms, we are the preferred location for the
various newspaper reports, the Port of Miami and Port Canaveral
have also expressed interest in housing the ships. Neither port
responded to requests for comment. Miami is currently home to what
are, for now, the world's largest ships, Royal Caribbean's
Other ports around
the country might also love to make a
play for the vessels, but according to Steve Cernak, port director
of Galveston, Texas, Florida ports are the only ones in the
running. "Historically, all the new deployments of a new class of
ship has always taken place in a one of the Florida ports," he
said. "While Galveston would love to have that vessel and could
handle that vessel, we also recognize that it's a business decision
of Royal Caribbean."
Port Everglades and
the Port of Miami are separated by only 28 miles of Florida
coastline, but they are divided by an increasingly competitive
environment to get the newest and largest cruise ships.
"Both the Port of
Miami and Port Everglades are desperately trying to get Genesis to
homeport with them," said Ken Dubbin, a former Royal Caribbean
executive who now runs K. Dubbin & Partners, a boutique
It would be "super
prestigious" for either port to boast the largest cruise ship in
the world, Dubbin said. "Port Everglades has been trying to unseat
Miami as the cruise capital of the world," he added.
contract is also highly desirable because of its significant impact
on a port's local economy, Dubbin said.
commissioned by Port Everglades estimated that the Genesis-class
ships' year-round presence would create 3,800 jobs, generating a
total income of $172 million. Anticipated construction on the
ships' terminal alone would generate 850 local jobs.
The study also
predicted that the ships would bring approximately 562,000 to
666,000 passengers per year, per vessel -- passengers are counted
as they embark and debark -- into the port based on year-round
service, bringing $200 million in port fee revenue to the port over
with both Miami and Port Everglades when Royal Caribbean's
Voyager-class was on the drawing boards in the late 1990s. He said
that in both instances there had been a similar competition between
the two ports.
"Playing one port
against the other was very beneficial for the company," he said.
"This competition should allow RCCL to negotiate a very good deal,
so long as they have multiple suitors vying to get the ship, which
I have every expectation they will."
Allen said there
were various reasons that Port Everglades would be Royal
Caribbean's first choice.
dredging issues facing them; Miami's issue would be [passenger]
access through downtown Miami as well as terminal issues," Allen
too, would need to undergo major construction to accommodate the
220,000-ton megaships, which are 40%
larger than the Freedom-class ships. That could include a $37
million expansion of its Terminal 18 building, according to a
prospectus that Royal Caribbean sent to Port Everglades.
How that expansion
would be financed is up for negotiation, but in its prospectus
Royal Caribbean said that if the port made the capital outlay, a
passenger head tax -- a significant source income considering the
number of guests the ships would carry -- could recoup the
Allen said that in
the past, terminal improvements had not been designed specifically
to accommodate certain vessels or cruise lines, and so the port
footed the costs. In this case, he said,
since the terminal would be expanded to accommodate Royal
Caribbean, the port would expect the cruise line to reimburse
"How they do it
will be subject to the negotiations, and how they charge for it
would be their determination," Allen said. In a letter Allen sent
to Royal Caribbean's president, Adam Goldstein, he said that a
passenger head tax of $4.95 (charged when embarking and debarking)
with a commitment to operate the two ships year-round through 2019
could recoup the costs.
A selling point for
the port, Allen said, was that Port Everglade's channel and turning
basin would need no modifications or dredging to accommodate the
ship, which is 6% longer than the Freedom-class ships. The channel
is 450 feet wide and 44 feet deep; the ship would require 400 feet
and 36 feet, respectively.
Allen said the
Genesis-class ships could need three gangways, while the largest
ships now at the port, including the soon-to-arrive Navigator of
the Seas, use one.
18 would eat up $28.9 million of the estimated expense; the
terminal is already undergoing a $4 million renovation to
accommodate the Navigator.
said the terminal would need to be expanded beyond its current
footprint to increase its luggage laydown area and to add elevators
The line recommends
expanding into and beyond the terminal's warehouse area to provide
a luggage area of 60,000 square feet. Terminal 2, currently the
port's largest, has 50,000 square feet of baggage area.
said, the line's Genesis ships would require 50 check-in desks,
while its largest ships now require 20 to 30. The ships would also
require four new bollards, 14 new fenders and general wharf
improvements that together would cost about $790,000.
also recommended additional space for vehicular traffic and bus
parking, and that the port improve its traffic lanes, drop-off
area, parking facilities and shuttle services.
Allen stressed that
Port Everglades had already proven that it was able to handle the
massive number of passengers the Genesis ships would carry; one day
last December, the port moved 46,000 people among the port's 12
"That's a world
record," he said.
Allen added that no
other port had the proximity to a major airport that Port
Everglades has, with Fort Lauderdale International airport only two
For its part, Royal
Caribbean proposed that having the
world's largest ships at one's homeport would bring with it
"bragging rights" and would "elevate the perception of Port
contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].