Disney Cruise Line could be considered married to Port Canaveral as its primary base in Florida, but now it has lined up a new port on the side with an agreement with Port Everglades.
The new deal will see the cruise line begin a 15-year lease as early as October 2023 with options to extend it to up to 30 years. It calls for year-round use of Cruise Terminal 4 for the first two years, and then adding access to a second terminal to be determined down the line.
Port Everglades has never hosted a Disney ship except for emergency docking.
Disney had been sending its older vessels Disney Magic and Wonder to sail from PortMiami at least seasonally since 2012. It had previously lined up a deal to share PortMiami’s new terminal being built by MSC Cruises for year-round sailing, but the cruise line began shopping around in the last year. In May, the Broward County Commission opened the door for the port and Disney officials to hammer out an agreement, which was finished at the end of October.
“Based on the chain of events over the last few years, it appears DCL’s primary goal was to create a second Port Canaveral experience with an exclusive berth and terminal in South Florida where they could have full control of the design and embarkation/debarkation process to offer guests a similar experience as they have been accustom sailing from Port Canaveral.” said Scott Sanders, who runs the fan site DisneyCruiseLineBlog.com. Sanders, though, said that is speculation based on public records from both PortMiami and Port Everglades as DCL officials have yet to weigh in.
The Sentinel reached out for comment from Disney Cruise Line.
The Port Everglades agreement shows the cruise line and port would split the estimated $12 million cost of a redesign of Cruise Terminal 4, which is adjacent to the Broward County Convention Center. Disney would also chip in $500,000 toward $2 million worth of marine-side improvements for the ship berth.
Details show enhancements could lead to a feel similar to Cruise Terminal 8 at Port Canaveral with upgraded check-in kiosks, room for 1,000 seats with mobile device charging stations and digital screens for information and entertainment.
Plans are for work on the terminal to be mostly done by Oct. 15, 2023 with final completion by Nov. 30, 2023.
The cruise line currently has four ships with Magic, Wonder, Dream and Fantasy while a fifth one, Disney Wish, is due to arrive to Port Canaveral in June 2022. Wish has two sister ships on order due in 2024 and 2025. The line also is moving forward with plans to build out a second Bahamas-based private destination with Lighthouse Point on the island of Eleuthera.
So by 2025, Florida could see more ships than ever sailing year-round from Florida ports.
While the agreement does not lay out which ships will be sailing, it does use language that allows for any of the planned seven vessels in the fleet to dock. Disney Wish and future ships are roughly the same size as Disney Dream and Fantasy, with a 4,000-passenger capacity, although the new vessels run on liquefied natural gas, which is not available yet at Port Everglades.
The agreement details call for Disney to begin sailing as early as Oct. 1, 2023 and no later than May 1, 2024. Plans are for it to base at least one ship at the port year-round doing four- and five-night sailings. For the first two fiscal years, the line is guaranteeing 400,000 passengers annually, which will then grow to 750,000 passengers from year three through the end of the potential 30-year contract run.
A second ship sailing three- and four-night sailings on a Monday and Friday docking schedule would see the cruise line using one of seven other terminals at the port, although all but one have preferential use by either Carnival or Royal Caribbean.
Sanders said his readers have different takes on the switch from Miami to Port Everglades.
“It is a mixed bag. Some have mentioned the drive is easier while others have mentioned the port is not as nice as Miami,” he said.