Norwegian Cruise Line returns Saturday to Port Canaveral

Norwegian-SpiritWhen the Norwegian Spirit enters Port Canaveral today, it will mark the first Norwegian Cruise Line ship based there since 2012.

The Spirit will operate weeklong cruises from Port Canaveral from now through mid-April, alternating between Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.

“Having Norwegian Spirit home-port in Port Canaveral represents a big opportunity for the Norwegian brand,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian’s president and chief operating officer.  “We know that there is pent-up demand from our loyal guests to cruise from Port Canaveral, and we are excited to bring this spectacular ship to the Greater Orlando area.”

In another cruise development, Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Walsh said Port Canaveral has overtaken Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale as the world’s second-busiest cruise port, behind Miami.

“There’s no more slippery slope there,” Walsh said, referring to the tight battle between Canaveral and Everglades a year ago for the runner-up position. Now, he said, Port Canaveral is “a solid second.”

Walsh said Port Canaveral now will take aim at Miami for the top position, and it could challenge that port by 2017. Walsh said he is projecting a 9 percent increase in cruise passenger volume in 2016 at Port Canaveral, then a 20 percent to 25 percent increase in 2017.

“It will stay a competition for some time, which keeps it fun,” Walsh said in his report to port commissioners. “Being No. 1, you only have a target on your back. No. 2 can be a lot more fun in the process.”

Stewart Chiron, founder and chief executive officer of, who closely follows the cruise industry, said Port Canaveral’s cruise passenger numbers were helped by a growth spurt in port-of-call visits. Port Everglades was hurt by a reduction in the number of ships there during the summer, including the move to Europe of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.

“It’s nice to see Florida ports continue to lead the way as being home to the three busiest cruise ports in the world,” Chiron said.  “These three ports alone had 12.38 million passengers visit, bringing billions of dollars to local economies and generating thousands of jobs.”

“The Caribbean remains very strong” as a cruise market, Walsh said.

Walsh said the booking figures on the Norwegian Spirit for its first sailing from Port Canaveral are strong as well. The ship will have about 2,200 passengers on its first cruise out of Port Canaveral, which is higher than the Spirit’s double-occupancy capacity of 2,018. Some of the cabins will have three or more passengers.

The ship, which has a crew of 962, is scheduled to arrive at 6 a.m. today  at Port Canaveral’s Cruise Terminal 1 after a 16-day trans-Atlantic cruise that originated in Barcelona, Spain. Walsh said there are about 1,890 passengers on that cruise. The ship is scheduled to leave Port Canaveral at 4:30 p.m. for an Eastern Caribbean cruise.

Norwegian joins Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean as cruise lines with ships now based at Port Canaveral.

But Norwegian isn’t a total stranger to the Space Coast. In the last year, three Norwegian ships based elsewhere on the U.S. East Coast — the Breakaway, the Gem and the Jewel — made a total of 43 port-of-call stops at Port Canaveral. A year earlier, Norwegian had 45 port-of-call stops there.

The Spirit entered cruise service in 1998 as the SuperStar Leo. It was renamed when it joined the Norwegian fleet in 2004, and was refurbished in 2008.

Norwegian announced in August that it would base the much-larger Norwegian Epic at Port Canaveral, starting in November 2016. The Epic, built in 2010, has a double-occupancy capacity of 4,100 and a crew of 1,753. The Epic will offer seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises, as well as three- and four-day cruises to the Bahamas, from Port Canaveral.

Chiron said it is nice to see Norwegian returning a ship to Port Canaveral, albeit initially with an older and smaller ship. He said it was a good sign that Norwegian in 2016 will replace the Spirit with one of its newest and largest ships.

Contact Berman at 321-242-3649 and Follow him on Twitter @ByDaveBerman and on Facebook at

Posted from Crystal Edgerly

Details released on Kissimmee’s $750 million MargaritaVillage

The developers behind the new $750 million MargaritaVillage resort coming to Kissimmee recently shared new details of what the resort will entail.

While we’ve known for some time that the resort, which is located on the old Splendid China property, will include a hotel, vacation homes and Jimmy Buffett themed amenities, the previously announced 175 room Margaritaville hotel complex will also include 500 vacation homes (the area around the resort is one of the highest concentrations for vacation homes in the nation), 300 timeshare units and 550 condos for permanent residents.

While uncommon in most of Central Florida’s resorts there are a few with permanent residential units including Mission Inn and the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes. The MargaritaVillage residential complex though would be by far the largest of any Central Florida resort.

A 3 acre freshwater swimming lagoon, similar to one being built in Lake Nona, will be one of the central features of the new resort. A water park (similar in size to the former Water Mania just down the street) and pools with direct ground floor suite access will also help create the Key West vibe of the resort. A water taxi, similar to the one found at Universal Orlando, will connect the 300 acre complex.

The developers are also planning numerous unique options for hardcore parrotheads, including a Margaritaville themed wedding pavilion, a St. Somewhere Spa and a fishing school.

Numerous restaurants, bars, a planetarium and swim up bar are also planned for development. Groundbreaking on the new Jimmy Buffett village is planned for mid-2016 with Phase 1 of the development aiming for a 2017 opening.

by November 10, 2015 at 10:30 AM

Blue Origin Will Build and Launch Rockets in Brevard

The project is expected to generate 330 jobs in Brevard and include more than $200 million in investments for manufacturing and launch pad facilities

The Space Coast’s glory days launching men to the moon on Saturn V rockets helped instill a “missionary passion” for space exploration in a young Jeff Bezos.

Now the billionaire founder and CEO’s dreams of opening spaceflight to the masses, not just an elite corps of astronauts, could play a central role in Cape Canaveral’s future.

In a ceremony at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 36 on Tuesday, Bezos confirmed that Blue Origin, the private space company he started 15 years ago, would build reusable rockets in Brevard County and launch them from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“We humans need to become a spacefaring civilization,” Bezos told reporters. “Do we want to go to Mars? Absolutely. But we want to go everywhere. And if you want to go everywhere, then you need to dramatically lower the cost of space.”

To achieve that goal, Seattle-based Blue Origin expects to start construction soon of a “21st Century production facility” for building rocket stages and components at Exploration Park, just south of Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island.

“Another week and another job announcement on the Space Coast,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, making his third stop in the area this month following announcements by aerospace firms Boeing and Embraer.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, KSC Director Bob Cabana and Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven Garland were among other dignitaries sharing the covered stage Blue Origin erected for the ceremony at Launch Complex 36.

The presentation even included a recorded welcome message from International Space Station astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren.

A repeated theme was the Space Coast’s comeback from roughly 8,000 contractor layoffs and the doldrums that accompanied NASA’s retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011, plus hopes that a new era of lower-cost commercial spaceflight is close to taking off.

At Launch Complex 36, Blue Origin will build a launch pad, a processing hangar and a stand to test rocket engines’ readiness for flight.

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 Gov. Rick Scott talks Blue Origin, plans for the Space Coast

The pad at the tip of Cape Canaveral has hosted more than 140 missions, including Mariner, Pioneer and Surveyor robotic spacecraft, plus military and commercial satellites. But the last launch was in 2005.”The pad has stood silent for more than 10 years – too long,” Bezos said to applause. “We can’t wait to fix that.”

Bezos offered no detailed timeline, saying Blue Origin hoped to launch “later this decade.” Initial test flights would carry research payloads before the rockets are deemed safe for people.

The company in April completed a test flight to the edge of space by its New Shepard vehicle, which is being designed to fly space tourists on suborbital trips launched from Texas. Another New Shepard test flight is possible this year, but it is not part of the company’s plans in Florida.

Here, Bezos said residents would “hear us before you see us,” starting with test-firings of its own BE-4 engine.

The methane-fueled engine will power the first-stage of Blue Origin’s orbital rocket. It is also the front-runner to boost United Launch Alliance’s planned Vulcan rocket, potentially ending ULA’s reliance on Russian-made engines and making Blue Origin a player in launches of national security satellites.

Blue Origin is like no other space company to fly from the Cape: It has no government or commercial launch contracts, and doesn’t need any in the near-term thanks to its billionaire backing.

That backing, Bezos said, allows Blue Origin to operate according to a Latin motto that translates to “step by step, ferociously,” and not fret about short-term funding pressures that even NASA struggles with year to year, causing programs to start and stop.

“That kind of steadiness, I think is unbelievably valuable,” he said. “One of the things that Blue brings is just a very stable approach, and that comes because in large part we don’t need government funding.”

While focused on human spaceflight, Blue Origin might eventually compete for contracts to launch government satellites, or people to private space stations.

But Bezos appears not to worry about competing with SpaceX or ULA, which occupy four pads further up the coast. He said he brings a long-term perspective that envisions space as an enormous market where millions of people will one day live and work.

“Space is pretty big,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities, and there’s room for multiple winners.”

The company’s orbital booster and engines are intended to fly multiple times. The booster would land on a barge, similar to what SpaceX has attempted recently with its Falcon rockets — so far unsuccessfully. The crew capsule also would be reused.

“You cannot afford to be a spacefaring civilization if you throw the rocket away every time you use it,” he said. “We have to be focused on reusability, we have to be focused on lowering the cost to space.”

With that emphasis on lowering costs, Blue Origin early on wasn’t interested in launching from the Air Force Station.

It preferred instead the state’s proposed Shiloh commercial launch complex at the north end of KSC and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and considered options in other states that would take longer to be ready.

Bezos said Blue Origin reviewed detailed bids from five states before committing to Florida, which won out because of its ideal location for orbital launches and the skilled work force that will be needed to build and launch the missions.

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 Blue Origin, the private space company founded by CEO Jeff Bezos, successfully completed its first test flight on Thursday, April 30, 2015.

He credited the Air Force with taking important steps to build confidence that Blue Origin’s commercial business would be welcomed alongside high-priority national security missions.

“We had to really get comfortable that the Air Force was serious about leaning forward and making this a great place to operate commercially, and I’m convinced they are,” he said.

Blue Origin is known for being secretive, and Tuesday’s celebration offered little new information about its flight plans, though Bezos showed off an artist’s concept of the orbital rocket blasting off from Cape Canaveral.

He promised more detail about the rocket next year, and asked guests to “please keep watching.”

“The vision for Blue is pretty simple, which is we want to see millions of people living and working in space, and that’s going to take a long time,” he said. “But we’ll do it step by step.”

, FLORIDA TODAY 7:25 a.m. EDT September 16, 2015

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NASA to Recruit New Astronaut Class

NASA will soon begin recruiting a new class of astronauts, the space agency announced Wednesday morning.

Applications will be accepted starting Dec. 14, beginning a process expected to result in the selection of astronaut candidates in mid-2017.

“Future astronauts will launch once again from the Space Coast of Florida on American-made commercial spacecraft, and carry out deep-space exploration missions that will advance a future human mission to Mars,” NASA said in a press release.

NASA in 2013 selected four men and four women as its most recent astronaut candidates, the first class hired after the space shuttle program’s retirement in 2011.

NASA plans to continue sending crews to the International Space Station in low Earth orbit through 2024. When ready, Boeing and SpaceX capsules launching from Cape Canaveral will be able to carry four crew members up and down, one more than Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.

By 2023 NASA expects to start launching crews from Kennedy Space Center in Orion capsules atop the Space Launch System on missions near the moon, with a long-term goal of sending humans to Mars.

Johnson Space Center, home of the astronaut corps, currently lists 47 active astronauts, not including those occupying management positions.

Contact Dean at 321-242-3668 And follow on Twitter at@flatoday_jdeanand on Facebook