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Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal: A History of Our Cruise Port

Looking at the Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal History

The Port Canaveral cruise terminal and cargo pier area sees thousands of visitors and employees every day. So many people and so much cargo moves through the port every day! It isn’t hard to believe that Port Canaveral is the second largest port in Florida. It is also one of the busiest cruise ports in the world. While millions of people cruise from here, few know of Port Canaveral’s rich history. Patriot Port Parking wants to show you a bit about the port that makes our area so great.

Before the First Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal

Port Canaveral didn’t begin as a major cruise port, as I’m sure you could guess. Like most ports, we began with commercial fishing before branching out into cargo shipments.

Port Canaveral’s people voted on and approved the port creation in 1947. This was a decision that shaped the development of the area for the rest of its history. Construction began in 1951, and the port was dedicated in 1953 on November 4th. Cargo began moving through the port, including oil, newsprint, and (of course!) Florida’s delicious orange juice. The Navy was an exciting addition to Port Canaveral in the late 50’s, and expansions continued into the 1980s. With the introduction of NASA’s space and shuttle program, Port Canaveral began using its deep channels and vessels for moving large rockets and retrieving boosters. All of this activity led to the expansion of the cargo industry, the fishing industry, and other businesses in the area.  In the 1970s, cruise ships began using us as a port-of-call. Then, in 1982, the area got its first Port Canaveral cruise terminal.

Port Canaveral Gets Cruisin’

The first Port Canaveral cruise terminal and its first home-ported cruise ship made waves in the same year: 1982. The port converted a warehouse into Cruise Terminal 1. The first cruise ship to make Port Canaveral more than just a port-of-call was the Scandinavian Sea, a cruise ship of Scandinavian World Cruises. By 1986, three more cruise terminals had been built to serve the growing cruise industry. At that point, the cruise lines had gone from offering out-to-sea and back trips to offering 3 to 4 day trips to the Bahamas.  Of course when the trips get longer and go farther, more people get pumped for cruising more often! The addition of the new cruise terminals saw more traffic and more ships coming through. Cruise terminals are added, renovated, and reopened regularly in Port Canaveral, and this doesn’t seem like it is going to let up any time soon.

By 1990, Carnival joined Premier in having a home port ship in Port Canaveral. Disney and Royal Caribbean followed suit in 1998 and 2000.  So over an 18 year period, the cruise industry of Port Canaveral exploded! “More ships and more people and more terminals” was the theme during this time. And the changes didn’t stop there!

The Big Ships: Looking at the Oasis Class

Carnival Fantasy was the first mega-ship to call Port Canaveral home. This was the start of Port Canaveral’s introduction of the big, fun-filled ships that became so popular over the last decade. I’m sure you’ve heard about the Oasis class ships, like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and the Harmony of the Seas. Maybe you even sailed out of Port Canaveral on the Oasis recently! In 2016, Port Canaveral became the proud home port of the third largest ship, the Oasis of the Seas, which docks in Cruise Terminal 1. In 2014, the terminal reopened after having renovations to make it big enough for these mega-ships. Huge ships call for even bigger changes!

Port Canaveral Cruising Today

Click for Port Canaveral’s Printable PDF Image!

Port Canaveral is proud to serve so many ships and cruisers coming in and out of its docks every year. In addition to the cruise ship lines, Port Canaveral is home to Victory Casino Cruises, a gambling ship that offers 5 hour cruises. Today, we have over 4 million cruise passengers annually, five cruise terminals, and nine cruise ships in our fleet. The fishing, cargo, and cruise industries of Port Canaveral run ships and boats that go in and out daily. Whether you are local or are just visiting, the effects of the port’s success are clear. Next time you’re here, take a moment before you board your ship and look around at the port. It is truly impressive!

With only thirty years of cruising history, we are Florida’s second largest port and one of the fastest growing ports in America. On top of that, we are also one of the busiest cruise ports in the world. And Port Canaveral itself promises that there is even more on the horizon! What more will time bring?

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