Key West Looks to Limit Cruise Ship Size and Cap Daily Passenger Disembarkations

Key West is looking to limit the size of cruise ships permitted to visit the popular South Florida cruise port and cap the number of passenger disembarkations per day through a series of proposed amendments to the City Charter of Key West. There are three specific amendments proposed for the November ballot that could lead to many cruise lines, including Disney Cruise Line, eliminating Key West from future itineraries.

The Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships hopes voters will vote yes on all three of the following proposed amendments:

  1. Limiting persons disembarking from cruise ships to a total of 1500 persons per day.
    The number of persons disembarking from cruise ships shall be limited to a total of not more than 1,500 persons per day at any and all public and privately owned or leased property located within the municipal boundary of the City of Key West.
  2. Prohibiting cruise ships with a capacity of 1300 or more persons from disembarking.
    Cruise ships with the capacity to carry 1,300 or more persons (passengers and crew) shall be prohibited from disembarking individuals at any and all public or privately owned or leased property located within the municipal boundary of the City of Key West.
  3. To give priority to cruise lines with the best environmental and health records.
    The City of Key West shall give preference and priority to cruise ships and cruise lines that have the best environmental record (the lowest number of environmental violations, penalties and fines) and best health record (the best scores and least number of violations in health inspections and reports issued by the Center for Disease Control Vessel Sanitation Program).

Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships is leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic and environmental concerns for their cause.

Cruise ships are uniquely prone to the spread of infectious disease, as recent reports from U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Miami HeraldWashington Post, and Wall Street Journal make clear. The destructive environmental impacts of cruise ships on air and water quality are well-established. A return to previous cruise-ship size and disembarkation numbers in Key West would resume its negative impacts on the local environment and pose a serious risk to the health, safety, and economy of its citizens. Overcrowding from cruise ships would threaten the recovery of Key West’s $1 billion tourist industry, 92% of which is generated by multi-day tourists. Cruise ships account for 50% of visitors to the island, but contribute just 8% of tourism revenues. Cruise ships present Key West with a high-risk/low-reward proposition that must be urgently addressed.

Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships – Case Study on Limiting Cruise Ships in Key West

The Safer Cleaner Ships committee stresses this is not intended to be a cruise ship ban, the proposals would still allow for one small cruise ship of 1,300-capacity, or two very small cruise ships of 750-capacity. However, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

In June, the Chamber of Commerce met to discuss the future of cruising Key West releasing some data on the $90 million dollar impact of the cruise industry. Based on studies that estimate the percentage of passengers and crew who disembark in Key West, their average spending, and fees associated with cruise ships entering the port, more than $90 million of revenue is realized in Key West.

In 2019, Key West had 417 cruise ship arrivals, only 22 meet the proposed criteria for size. The Chamber of Commerce does not feel ships meeting the proposed criteria could support the expected revenue stream based on the seasonal cruise ship visits of ships meeting the criteria.

KWCoC Cruise 2019 Ship Arrivals 20200624

According to the chamber, over 800 full-time jobs are attributed to Key West employment based on $75 million dollars of passenger and crew spending in 2019.

KWCoC Cruise Jobs 20200624

The Chamber invited Tom McAlpin to speak and highlight Virgin Voyages which was planning to reveal it’s first cruise ship, Scarlet Lady, on March 20th… The mid-size Scarlet Lady, sailing with 2770 passengers and 1150 crew, is slated to make 33 calls to Key West between October 2020 and December 2021.

McAlphin was key to Disney Cruise Line’s launch serving as the Chief Financial Officer before eventually becoming the president, and the person who wrote and handed Michael Eisner the business plan back in the mid-1990’s.

During McAlphin’s presentation he shared some of the safety measures planned for the when the Scarlet Lady debuts following the restart of the cruise industry.

The following is a video of the meeting covering the chamber’s stance as well as some interesting insight into Disney Cruise Line from McAlphin.

The potential impact to Disney Cruise Line is limited to the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder as the Dream and Fantasy are too big for the port in terms of ship size. As it stands with currently announced itineraries, the Magic and Wonder have 27 future calls scheduled to Key West, Florida.

You can learn more by visiting the Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships website and the Key West Chamber of Commerce.

7 Replies to “Key West Looks to Limit Cruise Ship Size and Cap Daily Passenger Disembarkations”

  1. Doug

    We are on the 12/7 5-nt on the Magic, which is scheduled to stop in Key West. If we actually sail, maybe they will replace Key West with another CC day…

  2. Michael

    I’M with Doug
    A day at castaway key , much better that A day at key West I know , I have been to both.

  3. Paul T

    Instead of Key West, If they could get through all the politics, I would love a day at Havana. What an experience it would be to see the city, meet the people, sample the food and enjoy a Cuban Cigar ( and I don’t even smoke)

  4. Brent Bolte

    Since it says ships with a capacity of 1300 (passengers and crew) my assumption is it would stop Magic and Wonder from ever stopping there if this passes, not just Dream and Fantasy.

    1. Scott Sanders Post author

      Correct, the potential impact to Disney Cruise Line is limited to the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder as the Dream and Fantasy are too big for the port in terms of ship size.

  5. Tom

    I would imagine this might answer the question surrounding the possible requirement of booking shore excursions through DCL. Simple way to comply capacity visitations in what other destinations must also be considering.

  6. Disneydreamin

    We are scheduled for the 12/30 departure on the Magic. An additional day at sea would be fine also! Actually going ANYWHERE right now is appealing!! (Any day on a Disney Cruise Ship is a good day!!!)


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