In July, the Miami-Dade County Commission gave the green light to Royal Caribbean’s new $247 million project, a state-of-the-art cruise terminal to serve as home to the Oasis-class ships.
The project marks a huge milestone for the state, which, despite ranking as the world’s number one cruise destination, has not been able to accommodate some of the biggest ships due to reduced port infrastructure.
“It was very tough not seeing the largest ships in the world coming to PortMiami, as had typically been the story,” port director Juan Kuryla said at the signing of the agreement.
“We are truly excited to be working with Miami-Dade County and PortMiami to create not just another cruise terminal, but a truly iconic building,” said chairman and CEO for Royal Caribbean Cruises, Richard Fain.
Terminal A, as the new facility will be known, is set to open in late 2018.
Renderings of the design show an angular glass building perched on the shore, with a connected parking garage of about 1,000 parking spaces at the north-eastern side of the port.
International design and planning experts Broadway Malyan beat five of the world’s leading architectural firms to win the design of the new terminal.
Nicknamed the “Crown of Miami”, the 170,000-square-foot main building will reveal the pointed shape of a crown to vessels approaching the port from east and western waters, while those sailing from the side will be able to see the impression of rising waters. At night, the terminal’s facade will be lit.
Inside the building, floor-to-ceiling glass windows will serve as the backdrop for the centrepiece, in the form of two giant, spinning chrome propellers.
According to Fain, new technology and paperless check-ins will be integrated into the terminal’s facilities with the aim of reducing passenger processing time to less than 10 minutes.
The terminal also will debut the line’s first full roll-out of digital luggage tracking, which allows guests to follow the location of their bags on an app.
“That’s really been the guiding principle, that the experience to the guest is crucial and we’ve invested a lot to do that,” Fain said. “We have all those kinds of technologies that we are also using to make the experience seamless.”
Upon completion, the new terminal will serve as homeport to Royal Caribbean International ships, including a 5,400-passenger Oasis-class ship, considered the world’s largest and most innovative cruise ship.
At present, Royal Caribbean’s current dock at Terminal G only fits ships that are about 1,000ft long, whereas Terminal A will allow 1,300ft long ships to dock. Until the expected opening of the terminal in two years’ time, Oasis ships will sail from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, which opened a new facility in 2009.
The agreement signals the achievement of a long-time hope that PortMiami would one day accommodate the 6,000-plus passenger ships, Kuryla said.
Royal Caribbean has committed to finance almost the entire construction cost of the $247 million terminal, bar a $15 million contribution from Miami-Dade County towards surface and road works to connect the new terminal to the other cruise terminals.
The cruise line will also pay the county $7.5 million in annual rent.
The country-owned port is currently struggling with $1.1 billion of debt, which is hoped to be alleviated by the $500 million annual economic benefit the terminal will bring to the area.
The new mega ships are expected to bring an additional 1 million travellers to PortMiami, up from the current 750,000.
Once the new cruise terminal is completed, it is anticipated that Royal Caribbean will generate at least 1.8 million passengers at PortMiami, representing 30% of the port’s projected passenger traffic.
According to the local authorities, around 4,000 jobs will also be created from the construction, operation and the general “domino effect” of hosting Oasis-class ships in the port.
Apart from its economic contribution to the area, the new terminal will stand as an edifice to a long-lasting association between PortMiami and Royal Caribbean. Under the new agreement, the cruise line’s ships will be kept in the port for a further 20 to 60 years.
“If we had done this 10 years ago, we probably would have developed something a little more prosaic,” Fain said.
“It’s going to be a landmark building for this community,” Kuryla added. “We view it as a legacy project Royal is building in this community that they’ve been in for many years.”