CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Port Canaveral has surpassed Port Everglades as the world's second-busiest cruise port, further solidifying Canaveral's place as "the cornerstone of Brevard tourism," Canaveral Port Authority Chairman Bruce Deardoff told Local 6 news partner Florida Today Wednesday.
Newly released figures for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 show Port Canaveral with 3.76 million revenue passengers, compared with 3.69 million for Port Everglades, near Fort Lauderdale.
Deardoff said passenger cruises are responsible for about 80 percent of Port Canaveral's revenue, "and are critical in the Brevard economy. Not only do the profits allow us to grow the port, creating thousands of construction and permanent jobs, it also puts heads in beds in our hotels and rears in chairs in our restaurants."
Canaveral Port Authority Chief Executive Officer Stan Payne said moving ahead of Port Everglades in the ranking is "exciting."
Although the Port of Miami remains the world's busiest cruise port, Payne told Florida Today, "We're satisfied with being No. 2, and trying harder."
Revenue passenger figures, a commonly used measure in the cruise industry, count passengers on a home-ported ship two times — when they board the ship at the start of their cruise and when they get off at the end of their cruise. Passengers on a ship making a port-of-call stop at a port are counted once. So the actual passenger totals for the two ports are closer to 2 million.
Port Canaveral inched ahead of Port Everglades following a year in which Brevard County's seaport showed a 21.3 percent gain in passenger counts. There are three Carnival ships, two Disney ships and two Royal Caribbean ships based at Port Canaveral, and Disney announced this week that it will have a third ship based here for part of 2014.
Surpassing Port Everglades is a "remarkable achievement," Deardoff said in comments to fellow Canaveral Port Authority commissioners on Wednesday, as he ended the meeting wrapping up his yearlong term as chairman. He said the ranking caps off "the most financially successful year in the port's six-decade history."
"We must always remember, this is a very fragile business," Deardoff told Florida Today. "Ports lose cruise ships all the time, and it is not always easy to learn he motivation behind the relocations. Port Canaveral is not exempt. We will lose ships in the future, which is why we must remain steadfast in our efforts to constantly strive to take care of our existing relationships, while we work at building new and even-better ones."
Deardoff said a piece of bad publicity can hurt a relationship with a cruise line.
"Our reputation is the key to maintaining and growing" the cruise business, Deardoff said. "We must never do anything that would reflect negativity, in the press, on that reputation. Thanks to the Internet, anything that happens here no longer stays here.
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