Port Canaveral was “open for business” in 1953, albeit mainly the local fishing business.  Today, Port Canaveral is one of the busiest ports in the US for cargo and cruise passengers.   And it’s growing…again.

During the August meeting of the Canaveral Port Authority, the board overwhelmingly voted to approve the construction of a new Welcome Center and an entertainment district.  Located on the south side of Port Canaveral, near the already existing bars and restaurants area, the new “Canaveral Cove” project has a price tag of $16.6 million and is scheduled for completion in June 2013.

In the plans are a 15,000 square foot Welcome Center which will include exhibit areas, a movie theater, an auditorium and offices.  This is an exciting move forward in the area’s development, which is slowly becoming a place where local residents and tourists dine, listen to live music and wave bon voyage to departing passengers aboard the cruise ships as they sail away in the early evening.

“We envision the Welcome Center and infrastructure improvements as a catalyst for private development on other property at the Port,” said Joe Matheny, Chairman of the Canaveral Port Authority Commission.  This comes at a crucial time with the end of the Space Shuttle program and the direct loss of over 7,000 jobs.

Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas maiden voyage from Port Canaveral
Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas maiden voyage from Port Canaveral

Adjacent to Jetty Park, a campground and park area, Port Canaveral is also home to local events and even gala inaugural celebrations when a new ship comes to homeport at Canaveral.  By the end of this year, Carnival will have three ships based at Port Canaveral offering 3, 4, 5 and 7 night cruises.  Royal Caribbean has two ships sailing from Port Canaveral along with Disney’s seasonal two…soon to be three ships in 2012.  Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun has called Port Canaveral her home for the 2010 Caribbean season and will return for one more year.  Last month a newly refurbished  ship, the Victory 1,  began operations with two daily gambling cruises.

Said Stan Payne, CEO of Port Canaveral, “The Commission has pressed the fast-forward button to transform Port Canaveral into the tourism and recreation destination that has been discussed since the early ’80s.”

Now if only Florida had a high-speed train from Orlando to the Port, the possibilities could be endless.

Headline photo credit: Canaveral Port Authority

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