Cruise Capital of the World

Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

With the completion of the Panama Canal expansion in 2016, the Port of Miami plans to play big.

When Juan Kuryla left his birth city of Lima, Peru, which sits next to waters known for some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world, he didn’t have a clue that as an adult he would again be connected to the sea. For one thing, the newly named director of PortMiami has a propensity to get seasick.

But Kuryla needn’t worry about that too much right now because he has to be land-based to oversee more than $2 billion in upgrades to the port’s infrastructure, which include a new underwater-access tunnel that will bring traffic directly from Interstate 95 without transiting city streets; bigger and better cranes to unload cargo; and a dredging project that will put PortMiami on the map (the shipping map, that is).

The Panama Canal is slated to finish its historic expansion in January 2016, and PortMiami will be among the first ports on the East Coast to be able to receive the new, larger ships that can pass through it.

Cruise ships are an important part of the story, as they account for a $6 billion-a-year contribution to the local economy, with some 4 million passengers sailing annually; the cargo side of the port accounts for another $22 billion. The new cranes can carry two and a half times more cargo than older ones, and the larger ships that will traverse the Panama Canal can “move people and cargo with economies of scale that were unthinkable until just recently,” says Kuryla. He wants to boost the amount of cargo moving through the port within eight to twelve years and increase cruise passengers significantly by 2018, solidifying PortMiami’s moniker as “Cruise Capital of the World.”

Four Best Boats Sailing Weekly

Of the more than 30 cruise ships sailing out of the port on a regular basis, here are the ones to book now.

The All-Inclusive Option: Regent Seven Seas Navigator
Maxing out at 490 passengers, the all-suite Navigator sails to boutique destinations “for a more intimate experience,” says CEO Frank Del Rio. With the exception of a spa treatment, every cost is included: on-shore excursions, tips, even a five-star hotel stay the night before the cruise.

Michelin-Star Cuisine: Oceania Riviera
The midsize Riviera boasts the first at-sea cooking school, and when in port at one of its many Caribbean stops, guests can take tours to farmers’ markets and learn about local fare.

Healthy Pampering: Crystal Cruises Serenity
Seventy deluxe, hypoallergenic veranda staterooms are chemical- and odor-free with medical-grade air purifiers, an industry first. Serenity’s Southern California ambiance is enhanced with “vertical walls” of greenery that include an herb garden, olive trees and lavender plants.

Spa-Focused: Celebrity Cruises Reflection
The newly launched Canyon Ranch SpaClub and Aqua-Class Suites—with multi-head showers and exclusive access to healthy dining at specialty restaurant Blu, plus a real grass Lawn Club on the upper deck—make this larger ship experience sophisticatedly intimate.