Caribbean Cruise Season Preview: New Ships, New Port Services

Living area of a new family suite on Royal Caribbean International's new Harmony of the Seas. // Photo by Emily Goldfischer

With the winter Caribbean cruise season just a little more than a month away, here's a sampling of some of the new ships, features and port services cruisers can expect from the major oceangoing big-ship lines. 

New Ships

Among the new crop of cruise ships sailing the Caribbean this winter is Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest ship, which will be home ported at Port Everglades. It boasts new family suites and snazzy thrill features.

Agents might show clients the "wild ride" video Travel Agent's reporter took during her "slide"down “The Ultimate Abyss.” In addition, Holland America Line’s Koningsdam will also sail to the Caribbean this winter from Port Everglades. 

Main dining room - Carnival Vista // Photo by Seldon Ink 

Among new ships sailing from Miami are Carnival Cruise Lines' new Carnival Vista, profiled in Part 1 and Part 2 of our onboard review, as well as the new Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Explorer.

As the ships reposition to the U.S. East Coast, trade and media events planned for November or December are likely to provide more “buzz” in the marketplace.

Increased Capacity

Many lines have replaced ships in existing embarkation ports with larger vessels. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas is moving to Port Canaveral, FL, in early November. 

In addition, Norwegian Epic is also expected to arrive at Port Canaveral on November 12; it will berth at Cruise Terminal 10, which is being upgraded and expanded. 

Carnival Triumph now sails from New Orleans, replacing a smaller vessel and increasing capacity by 34 percent on Carnival Cruise Line’s four- and five-day cruise program from New Orleans.

More Short Cruises

Short cruises are becoming increasingly popular for the lines sailing to the Caribbean and a great way to give first-timers a chance to try out this vacation mode. 

Royal Caribbean has at least 89 options for three- to five-day cruises this fall and winter in the Caribbean, based on our quick scan of the line'swebsite.

New Onboard Perks

This fall, as part of its $400 million Norwegian Edge program, Norwegian Cruise Line will introduce new Margaritaville at Sea restaurants on Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, both of which sail to the Caribbean, from New York and Miami, respectively. The new eatery has such signature items as Cheeseburger in Paradise and Who's to Blame Margarita.

From November 2016, Celebrity Cruises will introduce "Dine Aware," focusing on a new standard for food allergy and intolerance communication and experiences. Guests with special dietary needs will be able to dine confidently with Dine Aware.

MSC Cruises will be introducing Jean Louis David salons across its fleet by the end of the year, while Costa Cruises has launched MyCosta, an online tool that enables booked guests to customize their cruises by adding services and amenities to their booking. 

New or Updated Terminals

After undergoing a $48.38 million transformation in order to handle larger and modern ships, Cruise Terminal 5 at central Florida’s Port Canaveral opened in June. It serves primarily Carnival Cruise Line, although is used for other lines as needed.

The terminal is expanded to accommodate ships of up to 3,500 passengers (up from 2,500 previously), and it also has a 120-foot longer pier, new 1,044-space parking garage and new mobile passenger boarding bridges.

For the future, Royal Caribbean has entered into an agreement with Florida's Miami-Dade County for construction of a new Terminal A at PortMiami, with an expected opening in late 2018. Capable of handling the largest Oasis-class vessels, the new terminal will also boast an angular glass center and a 1,000-space parking garage.  

New Port Agreements

New port agreements will help keep the pipeline of cruise passengers flowing for years to come. In August, the Port of Baltimore and Carnival Cruise Line agreed to a contract extension through December 2018 with three one-year options. The deal means the line's Baltimore-based ship, Carnival Pride, will continue offering five to 13-day year-round cruises to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

Carnival Corporation also extended its contract with Port Everglades through 2030; the deal gives the company's ships use of five terminals including preferential use of Cruise Terminal 4, which reopened last year after $24 million worth of renovations and upgrades; the port is also now undertaking a $13.6 million slip extension project on Terminal 4, to be completed in mid-2017.  

New Embarkation Ports

Starting this November, Carnival will again offer cruises from Mobile, AL, after an absence of scheduled cruise service at the port for several years. Carnival Fantasy will operate four- and five-day western Caribbean cruises to Mexico’s Yucatan with calls at such destinations as Costa Maya, Cozumel or Progeso

New or Updated Private Islands

Carnival opened its new Amber Caye private island experience last Caribbean season, and many companies have updated or are updating their private island experiences this fall. Travel Agent published a round-up of those island changes this past summer.  

In a later press release, Norwegian Cruise Line provided more detail about planned updates to Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Separately, MSC Cruises has delayed the opening of its private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in the Bahamas, until 2018, although ground breaking is set for October.

Starting October 1, Saturday morning TV programming sponsored by Carnival Corporation will help spread the word about cruising as a vacation choice. // Photo by Carnival Corporation

New TV Series About Cruising

Earlier this month, Carnival Corporation announced it will sponsor three new TV series on Saturday mornings that should jar consumers' interest in cruising. See the full announcement and details here.

Cruise Destinations

Travel agents will likely learn much more about Puerto Rico, a major cruise line embarkation port and port of call, during Cruise Lines International Association's (CLIA) inaugural Travel Agent Destination Summit, which kicks off later this week in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

New earlier this year, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) unveiled its new online presence at In August, Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister, outlined Jamaica's plans for tourism growth; his group is now handling cruise marketing for the island. And one resource for Caribbean destination information is

Stay tuned to for more updates about cruising to the Caribbean this winter.