Port Canaveral expansion could mean big tourist boost for central Fla.



BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Port Canaveral is finalizing some major expansion plans and WFTV’s Melanie Holt found out deals with two major cruise lines could bring many more passengers and millions of additional dollars to central Florida

On Thursday Port Canaveral CEO John Walsh was celebrating 24 years of Carnival cruises in central Florida with a barbeque. Walsh is looking forward to finalizing deals that will keep Royal Caribbean in port for at least 10 more years, and create a new homeport for a Norwegian cruise ship.

Walsh said he expects it to bring more people through the airport who maybe would plan an extended stay in central Florida.

“Folks maybe add several days into the theme parks in central Florida.”

Residents said the new homeport could be a good way to drive more tourists into Brevard County.

“I think it'll be great for the area for getting more traffic, getting people to visit even the Cocoa Beach area,” resident Cathy Sterling said.

A single ship can generate a million and a half to $5 million on port fees alone.

“The home ship has about 1,500 jobs associated with it on the docks in the terminals, bus and transportation drivers, hotels,” Walsh said.

The deals the port's board will likely finalize next month could mean a 25 percent increase in traffic at the port by 2015. At its current rate of expansion, the port is predicting it will have six million passengers by 2017, which may allow it to overtake port Miami as the world's busiest cruise port.