What's New at Cruise Ports in Florida 2017

By ,   January 3, 2017 ,   Cruise Industry

2016 was a good year for cruise ports in Florida as far as new ships are concerned. During the last couple of months, Port Miami and Port Everglades saw Florida debuts of 4 cruise ships.

So while cruisers keep enjoying the new ship smell of Harmony of the Seas, Carnival Vista, ms Koningsdam and Seven Seas Explorer in early 2017, there are 3 new ships slated for Florida debuts later in the year.

The biggest of those is MSC Seaside, a new class of ship designed to sail year-round from Miami. The 154,000-ton ship will join MSC Divina sailing Caribbean itineraries out of Miami. The ship can hold 4,140 passengers at double capacity. Among its unique features will be an interactive water park with five slides, one of which will be part slide, part video game. The 1,059-foot-long, 134-foot-wide ship's design also features 463,000 square feet of public space including 11 dining venues, a double deck atrium with glass walls offering up views of the ocean, waterfront promenade and the line's largest ship-within-a-ship concept, the MSC Yacht Club, which offers guests private lounge, pool and solarium. Seaside arrives Dec. 21.

The two other ships slated for Florida debuts fall on the luxurious side of sailing vessels.

Viking Ocean Cruises debuted its first vessel in 2015, and will grow its fleet to four ships by the end of 2017. The fourth ship, Viking Sun, will begin its first months of service sailing from Miami. The company known for its river cruises had its first Caribbean foray this year with its ocean vessels, but has never home ported from Florida. The 930-guest ship will offer several sailings that feature visits to Havana, Cuba, Key West, Belize and Cozumel as well as a Panama Canal crossings and then finally embark from Miami on a 141-day world cruise, the first ever for the company.

Coming to Fort Lauderdale will be the biggest ship ever from Silversea Cruises, the Silver Muse. The 40,700-ton ship that holds 596 guests will be the ninth in the Silversea fleet and become the line's flagship. Currently under construction at Fincantieri shipyard, the line takes delivery this spring but it will make its Florida debut on Dec. 18 with a 16-night cruise from Port Everglades.

One other notable highlight of 2017 will be the expanded availability of cruises to Cuba. While Carnival Corp. was the first U.S.-based company in years to visit the island nation with its Fathom brand in 2016, several lines including Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises join the fray in 2017.

Cruisers will be able to sail from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa on voyages with stops in Havana. One of those ship's will be the reworked Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas, which will sail from Miami on its first Cuba sailing April 19. It will then reposition to Tampa, offering two more sailings to Cuba. Royal is parking Empress of the Seas in Tampa all summer long, a first for the line. Its 4- and 5-night summer sailings will also feature visits to Cuba.

Not much change is expected in Port Canaveral in 2017 beyond getting its sea legs as it manages the inaugural sailing seasons of behemoth Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas and behemoth-light Norwegian Epic. It also remains year-round home to Carnival Magic, Disney Dream and Fantasy as well as several smaller ships. At the end of January, Disney Wonder will return to the port, marking the Florida debut of the ship since its refurbishment in late 2016. Upgrades include the New Orleans-style restaurant Tiana's Place inspired by "The Princess and the Frog," the children's play space Marvel Super Hero Academy featuring Spider-Man, reworked adult entertainment venues and a new water slide.

There are several new ships set to debut in 2017 that won't be calling on the Sunshine State. Those include China-bound Norwegian Joy and Majestic Princess and the giant 167,700-ton, 5,700-passenger MSC Meraviglia sailing the Mediterranean.

Looking into 2018, Royal Caribbean plans to open a new terminal and bring an Oasis-class ship to Miami. Its current stable of three Oasis-class ships currently call either Port Everglades or Port Canaveral home, and 2018 will mark the debut of the yet-to-be-named fourth Oasis-class ship. That year will also see the debut of a new class of Celebrity ship, Celebrity Edge, as well as Carnival Vista's sister ship Carnival Horizon, Norwegian Escape's sister ship Norwegian Bliss which will sail Alaska, MSC Seaside's sister ship MSC Seaview tagged for the Mediterranean and a sister ship to Holland America's Koningsdam. Most of those ships' home ports have yet to be announced.