Cruising – The Port of Miami

The Dante B. Fascell Port of Miami (POM) began with the ingenuity and foresight of Henry Flagler in 1886, when he extended the Florida East Coast (FEC) railway to Miami. With resorts and cities springing up rapidly along the rail line, the demand for cargo and passenger service increased, as well. Recognizing the potential revenue to be gained by developing the port of Miami, Flagler contributed to the construction of the docks and collected port fees at the same time. A few years later, in 1915, passenger service opened to the Bahamas, and by 1930, cruising to Baltimore and New York was in full swing. During this time, the economy received a major boost from tourism and city officials authorized plans for a public terminal, a turning basin, and a channel-deepening project. Other than a brief interim of control by the US Navy during WWII, the 1940’s saw the inauguration of cruise service to Havana, Cuba, and the POM becoming the primary shipping hub to South Florida
Significant progress was made in the growth of the POM that included the annexation of Dodge Island for port expansion in 1956, the building of additional terminals, and the launching of four maiden voyages of cruise ships in a single month in 1968. An elevated five-lane bridge from the mainland to the port was completed in 1992, with lighting installed four years later. Three terminals, 3, 4, and 5, were enlarged in 1999 to accommodate the largest cruise ship at the time, the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas, equipped with a full-size basketball court, ice skating arena, and a rock climbing wall.

From over 1,000,000 passengers in 1976 and 1,500,000 in 1980 to 3,000,000 in 2005, cruising from the POM has brought an incredible boost to tourism and the economy. Today, well over 4,000,000 passengers cruise each year on 3, 4, 7, 10, and 11-day trips from seven different terminals on destinations to the Caribbean, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. The major cruise lines leaving from the POM are Carnival, Costa, Norwegian Caribbean (NCL), Celebrity, Windjammer, Oceania, and Royal Caribbean. Schedules and information are available at each cruise line website. In addition, one cruise line in particular, NCL has made the POM their home port of call, where visitors can spend the day visiting the attractions in the Miami area. It is quite likely that more cruise lines will do the same in the future.

The POM has also contributed to environmental protection and awareness through the creation of 11 artificial reefs in Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. They work in conjunction with the US Coral Reef Task Force to conserve the various species of marine life in their natural habitat, as well as managing and maintaining the red mangroves, so necessary for shoreline and wildlife protection. In addition to conservation efforts in Biscayne National Park, they have created 42 habitats in the Oleta River State Park. Other efforts by the POM include storm pollution prevention and oil spill cleanup, as well as programs and presentations to educate port users in the importance of coastal environmental protection. Dredging has provided additional berthing spaces for the larger cargo ships, while adhering to the protection of endangered wildlife such as sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, and snooks.

Presently, millions of dollars in renovations and improvements are ongoing, which will provide added cruising pleasure for visitors going through the Port of Miami. Future projects, at a cost of over $170 million, include additional parking garages, improved access for passengers only, and three-level terminals. With advanced amenities such as VIP lounges, airport-style baggage conveyors, and upscale security, the terminals will be the first in the US to have a Customs and Border facility, which will incorporate customs, immigration, and agriculture inspections for all returning passengers. Each terminal, with spacious, glass-fronted ticketing areas, can accommodate up to 5,000 passengers at a time.

Also in the planning stages is a tunnel to facilitate access to the POM, presently only accessible by the six-lane Port Boulevard bridge from the mainland, hardly enough for the anticipated increase in traffic in the next ten years. The tunnel will be used for the heavier cargo and passenger buses, while individual passenger vehicles will continue using the Macarthur Causeway on Watson Island. The Causeway will be connected with Dodge Island and the Port Boulevard, providing direct access from the Interstate to the POM.

The vision of Henry Flagler has become a reality; the POM today is one of the eight major seaports and the “cruise capital of the world.” It maintains port agreements with 36 different countries including Europe, South America, Canada, the UK, Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Africa. The Department of Homeland Security and the US Coast Guard provide current weather and security information for ships and passengers arriving or departing from the POM.

Parking: Facilities at each terminal. Long term – $15.00/day/per vehicle, short term – $5.00. Taxis, shuttles, and rental cars available.

Note: 6 miles to Miami International Airport; dining, hotels, and attractions nearby.

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