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Carnival Cruise Line Issues Warning for Passengers

TheStreet 3/22/2023 Daniel Kline

The cruise line's message should actually be heard by Royal Caribbean, Virgin, Norwegian, and MSC passengers as well.

PortMiami used to be the busiest cruise port in the world. It recently lost that status to another Florida cruise ship port, Port Canaveral, but "busiest," in this case, reflects the numbers of passengers served.

It does not actually reflect crowds, If you go by traffic, crowding, and the potential for gridlock, Miami remains the busiest cruise port in the world. That's partially because PortMiami actually sits outside Miami. You have to go through the heart of the very busy city to get there.

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On a normal day, PortMiami may see 8-10 cruise ships leave at roughly the some time. That's thousands -- likely close to 20,000 people, maybe more -- making their way to various ships. Some terminals are easier than others

Royal Caribbean's RCL Terminal A, for example, which is the largest cruise ship terminal in the world, sits just off the entrance to the port. It also has a massive parking garage making it relatively easy for passengers to park and board their ship.

At the other end of the Spectrum, Terminal G and J, used by a variety of cruise lines, sits deep inside the terminal. Getting there on a good day might take 20-30 minutes after you can actually see your ship.

That's the worst-case scenario, but PortMiami can be very crowded and unpleasant and Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) - Get Free Report has issued a warning to passengers that it could get worse. 

Carnival's Venenzia at sea. Image source: Carnival © Provided by TheStreet Carnival's Venenzia at sea. Image source: Carnival

Carnival Sends Passengers a Warning

While PortMiami always requires more time than you might think to park and reach your ship, Carnival Cruise Line has warned its passengers that the weekend of March 24 will actually be worse than usual.

“While you prepare for your cruise, we’d like to inform you that the City of Miami will be hosting Ultra Music Festival in the downtown area from Friday, March 24 through Sunday, March 26, 2023. As a result, there will be numerous street closures and heavier than normal traffic in and around the city,” the cruise line shared in an email to passengers on ships sailing from Miami on those dates.

The music festival takes a crowded city with limited public transportation and makes everything worse. The presence of a festival in town also makes it harder to book a hotel room (something passengers likely already found out) and forces people coming the the day before to stay farther from the port.

That means that hotel shuttles could be overwhelmed with more passengers needing that service. In addition, ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft will be both busy and have higher-than-usual prices.

PortMiami Is Going to Be Crowded

Carnival is not the only cruise line sailing out of Miami that weekend. Royal Caribbean has multiple ships leaving the port on Friday and MSC Cruises, Virgin Voyages, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) - Get Free Report also have ships leaving from Miami that weekend.

"Sunday will likely be the most challenging day for port traffic, as eight different cruise ships will be in port, including the Oasis-class Oasis of the Seas and Carnival Celebration, as well as Norwegian Encore, the largest ship by gross tonnage in Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet," CruiseHive reported.

This issue highlights why both Carnival and Royal Caribbean continue to use Port Canaveral as home ports for some of their bigger, newer ships. That port, which is not in a city with any meaningful population, can more easily handle large crowds, but it's less accessible from major airports as it's about an hour from Orlando International, two hours from West Palm Beach (a fairly small airport) and maybe 2 hours and 45 minutes from Fort Lauderdale.

Royal Caribbean also sails out of Fort Lauderdale. Florida in Southern Florida, which Carnival doesn't.

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