Geneva-headquartered cruise operator MSC Cruises announced earlier this month that ground has broken on its new Floridian home at the Port of Miami (PortMiami), a project that will rank as the largest cruise terminal in North America when completed at the end of next year (if the current construction schedule holds).
Spanning four stories and nearly 500,000 square feet, the sprawling and wave-like MSC Cruises terminal, designed by Miami’s Arquitectonica and built by maritime construction company Fincantieri Infrastructure, will be large enough to process 36,000 passengers per day and feature enough berthing space to simultaneously accommodate three “latest generation” mega cruise ships. As reported by the Miami Herald, two of the terminal’s berths will be dedicated to vessels operated by MSC Cruises while the third will belong to Miami-Dade County and be used to support large ships from other cruise lines. MSC Cruises, one of two brands in the cruise division of Swiss shipping and logistics conglomerate the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), is the largest cruise line in Europe and the third-largest in the world with a current fleet of 19 vessels.
The new $350 million terminal at PortMiami, the largest passenger port in the world, will help MSC Cruises further expand its already-growing presence in North America. As announced earlier this month, the company’s MSC Meraviglia will begin sailing year-round from New York City in April 2023. The company’s newest flagship vessel, the MSC Seashore, is already based at PortMiami and a second mega cruise liner, the MSC Seascape, will be delivered at the end of this year according to the Miami Herald.
Located on the easternmost end of Biscayne Bay’s Dodge Island, home to PortMiami, the new MSC terminal is the second Arquitectonica-designed terminal located to the so-called “Cruise Capital of the World.” As noted by Florida YIMBY, the firm’s terminal for Virgin Voyages debuted just last month. In a project description, the firm noted that the new facility will be the “last terminal viewed by every departing cruise ship and the first terminal viewed by every returning ship.”
“This design takes advantage of the length of the site to project a powerful shape and dimension like no other at Port Miami,” explained the firm. “The west end of the terminal rises to provide a grand lobby entrance and the VIP Lounge is atop the terminal’s east side, facing the ocean.” Arquitectonica also oversaw the interiors of the building while the firm’s landscape architecture and urban design arm, ArquitectonicaGEO, designed the landscape around the terminal including a large, elevated entry plaza.
“Our new terminal at PortMiami represents MSC Cruises’ commitment to growing in North America and will help drive our expansion in South Florida and beyond,” said Rubén Rodriguez, president of MSC Cruises USA, in a press statement. “It’s also part of our larger sustainability goals, which include deploying our most modern and environmentally advanced ships to North America, the continued development of our one-of-a-kind Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, and our pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.”
Per the company, “most ships” deployed from the new terminal at Port Miami will be able to plug into the local power grid while in port. Docked cruise ships that do not connect to shore power and keep their engines running are a major source of emissions in communities that are home to passenger ports. As the Miami Herald reported, a timeline for the implementation of sustainable shore power at PortMiami has been “vague” with Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announcing last March that the Carnival Cruise Line’s Terminal F would have shore power infrastructure by October 2023 as part of a newly launched pilot program. In February of last year, Miami-Dade County, utility Florida Power & Light, and six cruise operators, including MSC Cruises, signed a joint letter of intent agreeing to implement shore power at PortMiami. The letter came shortly after the Miami Herald ran a story about the pollution generated by the colossal boats while at port.
In addition to the new terminal itself, which MSC Cruises said will add a “new layer of beauty to Miami’s iconic skyline,” the project at PortMiami entails the construction of a multi-level parking garage directly linked to the terminal via the entry plaza that can accommodate 2,400 vehicles. New roads and necessary shore infrastructure including such as water supply stations and passenger embarkation decks will also be developed as part of the project.
The cruise industry, of course, has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic although it is already bouncing back at a rapid clip in South Florida, where relaxed restrictions and regulations under Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have seen tourism flourish again ahead of other areas. (That said, we’re very much not out of the woods yet.) Miami-Dade County approved construction of the terminal ahead of the pandemic in April 2019 and, as detailed by the Miami Herald, MSC agreed to a 50-year lease deal at the port; the deal includes free rent for the first year and $8 million in infrastructure from the county. In its second year, MSC will pay $15.2 million and three percent more each subsequent year until the terminal’s 31st year in operation at which point the rent will be renegotiated.
Currently, the largest cruise terminal in the United States is Royal Caribbean’s $250 million Terminal A, which opened at PortMiami at the end of 2018. It was designed by London-based Broadway Malyan with Bermello Ajamil & Partners serving as architect of record.