by Kevin Griffin of The Cruise People writing in cybercruises.com
MSC Cruises will change its Florida seasonal base port from Fort Lauderdale to Miami for the cruise season starting in late 2013. The Italian-based line will operate its newest ship, the 3,500-berth MSC Divina, from Miami between November 2013 and May 2014, although MSC Poesia will still sail from Port Everglades in 2012-13.
In announcing the move last week, MSC Cruises’ US president Rick Sasso also intimated that another MSC ship could well follow and that having a year-round MSC ship in North America was not entirely out of the question. MSC Divina will become the largest ship in the MSC Cruises fleet when she delivers in Marseilles on May 26, featuring a separate 69-suite first-class zone called The Yacht Club, with exclusive forward views from its lounge atop the bridge.
This is the second such announcement in two weeks as earlier this month Norwegian Cruise Line revealed that it would be basing its own new 4,000-berth Norwegian Getaway at Miami year-round from her introduction in 2014. When she arrived, the 144,000-ton ship will become the largest ship to use Miami as her home port. Sister ship Norwegian Breakaway will be based at New York year-round from spring 2013.
Since losing Oasis and Allure of the Seas to Fort Lauderdale in 2009, Miami has been striving hard to make up for the loss of the world’s largest cruise ships. Even so, it has handled more than four million passengers for four years in a row now, a number that is expected to reach four and a half million by 2014.
Royal Caribbean’s choice of Fort Lauderdale as base port for its Oasis and Allure of the Seas ended the decades-old rule that Miami, with its 3-, 4- and 7-day cruises, was mass market while Fort Lauderdale, with its Round-the-World and Transatlantic liners, was upmarket. And the recent changes have only served to change this even more.
Three brand-new ships are set to start sailing from Miami later this year – the 3,030-berth Celebrity Reflection and 3,690-berth Carnival Breeze, operated by lines that are indicated in their names (echoing the days when tankers were all called Esso this or Texaco that), as well as Oceania Cruises’ new 1,259-berth Riviera. All three will sail from Miami this winter, and with Carnival Breeze becoming the largest ship to be based in Miami, at least until Norwegian Getaway arrives in 2014.
Also new to Miami will be Regent Seven Seas, which will bring two ships to the port next winter. Regent previously sailed from Port Everglades, but they will now share a dedicated Miami terminal with stable mates Oceania Cruises. Disney Cruise Line will also base its 1,750-berth Disney Wonder in Miami for the first time from December through May 2013, operating on 4- and 5-night itineraries. And Crystal and Cunard made the move to Miami some time ago now.
One thing going in Miami’s favour of course is that all of Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises are based there, as are Prestige Cruises’ Oceania and Regent brands.