Carnival to double trips from Norfolk, proposes year-round cruising
Goal is to have year-round cruises in 2025
Carnival Cruise Line announced Monday it will more than double the number of cruises it offers from Norfolk in 2023 and is working toward year-round cruising from Norfolk in 2025.
Stephen Kirkland, executive director of Nauticus, shared the news from Norfolk’s cruise terminal that overlooks the harbor where ships dock, adjacent to downtown Norfolk.
Carnival currently has 11 sailings from Norfolk, but they are seasonal, taking place in October and May. The expansion will make sailings consecutive for six months and increase to 26 a year, bringing an estimated 100,000 visitors through the mermaid city. The cruises will go to destinations such as the eastern Caribbean, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada and New England and last four to 10 days. Year-round cruising would bring departures weekly.
“We have been working closely with Norfolk city officials on this expansion since our successful restart earlier this year, and it’s great to now share our plans with our guests,” Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, said in a statement. “We look forward to building on our 20-year commitment to this community and continuing the momentum toward further expansion in the future, while increasing our positive economic impact in Norfolk.”
The plan to increase departures from Norfolk is part of a larger expansion of Carnival’s mid-Atlantic operations, according to a news release. The Carnival Magic, which can hold 4,724 passengers, began setting sail from Norfolk in May and splits its time between New York and Norfolk. A new cruise ship will join the fleet and take over Carnival Magic’s departures from New York, freeing up the Magic to remain in Norfolk half the year.
The immediate economic impact for the city is $16.7 million, but it could be north of that, said Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander. He said two-thirds of the U.S. population is within a day’s drive of Norfolk, and the goal is to have more people come to the region a few days before their cruise and stay a few days after.
To make sure the Peter G. Decker Jr. Half Moone Center is able to handle year-round cruising, it will undergo renovations in 2024, Kirkland said. The building was planned in 2005 and built in 2007, and in that time cruise ships have grown larger. Improvements include an elevator and escalator, as well as traffic mitigation measures and other enhancements. Kirkland said that he didn’t have an estimated cost because engineers are still devising a plan, and the funding source still needs to be determined, though the city is the primary stakeholder.
“We’re grateful for the city but we certainly hope the commonwealth and others will recognize that this — without question — is the biggest game changer in the history of our cruise ship terminal, so we hope everyone will want to be a part of this,” Kirkland said.
He pointed out that Norfolk’s cruise terminal is the only one in Virginia.
“We will continue to bring this facility up to industry standards so that we can get the largest, the largest best service and also the security and also the passenger experience. We want it to be seamless,” Alexander said.
Last fall, the terminal began work on its $2.6 million cruise ship gangway, which will accommodate larger cruise ships.