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    Carnival CEO: Port ship-shape; no plan to add vessels

    Carnival Cruise Lines President and Chief Executive Gerry Cahill reaffirmed on Wednesday the cruise company’s commitment to Port Canaveral, but he wouldn’t go so far as to say it will mean additional ships based there.

    “That’s a little premature,” Cahill said in a telephone interview with FLORIDA TODAY.

    Cahill originally was supposed to be at Port Canaveral tonight to officially christen the new $60 million Cruise Terminal 6, which is mostly being used by Carnival vessels. A death in the family, however, forced Cahill to cancel his visit.

    Tonight’s event also is doubling as the “There’s No Place Like Our Home Port” gala to benefit United Way of Brevard.

    Taking Cahill’s place tonight will be Jim Berra, Carnival’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, and Carlos Torres de Navarra, the company’s vice president of commercial port operations.

    In his interview with FLORIDA TODAY, Cahill and Torres de Navarra touched on a number of subjects, including the hope for more local shore excursions in the Brevard area, and the recent dust-up between hoteliers and Stan Payne, the chief executive of the Canaveral Port Authority.

    On the latter subject, Cahill had nothing but praise for Payne and his team at Port Canaveral, calling them “tough but fair” negotiators when it contracts with Carnival.

    “When I first started as CEO, our management team told me there were a few ports that really got it, that really understood the cruise industry and really understood where we going,” Cahill said. “They told me right off that Port Canaveral was one of those ports. The team there understands the cruise industry and really understands our needs. They negotiate hard, but they should.”

    Carnival has three ships home-ported at Port Canaveral. Two other Carnival ships — one based in Baltimore and the other in New York — make port-of-call visits to Port Canaveral as part of the destination routes.

    That makes Port Canaveral Carnival’s second-largest cruise base. The largest is Port of Miami.

    “Port Canaveral is in a unique position,” Cahill said. “It is the second-largest home port Carnival has in the world. And the second thing that makes Port Canaveral very unique is not only that we have three ships that use it as a home port, but we have two ships that use it as a destination port. So we actually have five ships that utilize Port Canaveral. That is pretty unique. That happens very, very rarely.”

    On the subject of shore excursions, Cahill said he wishes there were more local offerings for Carnival passengers.

    Many tend to want to go the Orlando-area theme parks, but sometimes, the time it takes to disembark, travel to Orlando and return to the ship can make for a long day, he said.

    “Would I like a few more local excursions to consider that would be of interest to our guests? The answer is yes,” Cahill said. “But, overall, we’re pretty happy with what we’ve got.”

    On a recent failed attempt by two members of the Canaveral Port Authority Board of Commissioners to oust Payne, in part because of policies related to ground-transportation issues as well as what they saw as communications issues with the port commissioners, Torres de Navarra said Carnival is well-aware of the controversies.

    Carnival’s intent, though, is to avoid the politics of the situation, he said.

    At one point, Torres de Navarra was a member of a special transportation committee set up by Port Authority commissioners to study traffic flow, the fees and other issues. He resigned after the first meeting, however, seeing the politics were starting to bubble.

    “Honestly, it’s not something we wanted to get into,” Torres de Navarra said. “We felt it was just too political and, really, our interface is with the port, first and foremost.”

    By Wayne T. Price, Florida Today

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