The news that Port Everglades – the cruise ship port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida – had a record day yesterday in terms of passenger numbers is both a confirmation of the increasing popularity of cruising, and a footnote to my reports of potential overcrowding at sea.
A total of 52,000 passengers passed through the port yesterday; half of them on their way home at the end of a cruise, the other half setting out on their holidays.
The previous record day for business was on January 3 last year, when 49,234 passengers sailed in and out of Port Everglades on 11 cruise ships.
Among the vessels in port yesterday was the biggest cruise ship in the world, Oasis of the Seas, which has its own 240,000 sq ft terminal which promises to deliver passengers to the ship within 15 minutes of arrival at the entrance.
Recent reports suggest that not only are they succeeding in achieving that target, but they are beating it by several minutes, which makes you wonder why they thought it necessary to provide so much waiting-room seating and children’s play facilities for people likely to spend less time in the building than they would in a queue to get through airport security.
From November this year the terminal, which cost $75 million (£50 million) to upgrade, will also be handling passengers on sister ship Allure of the Seas.
Also in Port Everglades yesterday were another Royal Caribbean giant, Independence of the Seas (which will be sailing from Southampton throughout the summer); Crown Princess and Ruby Princess, two of the newest and biggest ships in the Princess fleet; Carnival Miracle, Holland America’s Eurodam, and Italian rivals Costa Atlantica and MSC Poesia.
Miami has long thought of itself as the world capital of cruising, but improved facilities and the fact that it is only two miles from Fort Lauderdale airport are both contributing to Port Everglades’ success.
Hoping to build on the success and capture cruise-and-stay business, the hotels of Fort Lauderdale are keen to promote themselves as a potential rival to Orlando. I’m not sure that even the 23 miles of beaches would tempt families intent on touring the theme parks at DisneyWorld and Universal Studios, but at least they have Sawgrass Mills, which claims to be the world’s largest discount shopping mall.