Infrastructure investment, public-private partnerships, safety and security were among the leading topics discussed during the visit. Senior staff of legislators including Sen. Marco Rubio and US Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Frederica Wilson, Lois Frankel and Mario Diaz-Balart took part in the tour.
'Virgin Trains USA is a transformative asset for the cruise industry in South Florida, currently conveniently connecting passengers and those doing business at two of our state’s busiest ports,' said Michael Rubin, VP governmental affairs, Florida Ports Council. 'To know a connection extending into Orlando International Airport is also on the horizon will only further enhance the appeal of cruising from the Sunshine State.'
PortMiami station feasibility study
In February, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution to begin deliberating the feasibility of a Virgin Trains station directly at PortMiami.
Currently, passengers sailing from South Florida ports can take advantage of 'Train to Port' packages, which include garage parking at Brightline stations, one checked bag per person, a round-trip in Smart plus class (or the opportunity to upgrade to Select) and round-trip Lyft rides.
Cruise line partnerships
The packages are open to all cruise line passengers. Also, Virgin Trains USA has marketing agreements with MSC Cruises — its official cruise line partner, and with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line.
'Taking a cruise should be a relaxing experience and Virgin Trains USA helps guests begin their holiday before they even set sail — a welcomed alternative to I-95 traffic,' said Virgin Trains USA SVP Ben Porritt. 'It was wonderful hosting this group today and showcasing how infrastructure investment like Virgin Trains USA enhances the vacation experience and positively impacts South Florida tourism.'
Further cruise agreements, growth forecast
Virgin Trains expects to announce additional cruise line agreements in the coming weeks and projects its cruise-related business to drive significant ridership growth over time.
'We see tremendous potential in the cruise market and continue to be well received by the cruise lines and travel partners,' a spokesman told Seatrade Cruise News. 'PortMiami continues to grow and the cruise industry continues to build new ships and terminals.' He added: 'Virgin Voyages will launch next year, giving us new opportunities for cross marketing. We see an incredible opportunity to play a role in this growth and serve cruise passengers with embark and debarks in the “Cruise Capital of the World.” '
In addition, the spokesman noted that Central Fare, the new food hub at Virgin MiamiCentral is very convenient for cruise executives looking to entertain or hold meetings near PortMiami.
La Estación American Brasserie by Juvia Group was recently announced as the anchor restaurant. Other spots include World Famous House of Mac, Bucks Crepes, Patagonia Flavors by Delicatessen Patagonia, Bio Bio Gelato, Art de Vivre (wine bar and café), Parliament Coffee & Espresso Bar, Rosetta Bakery and, scheduled to open this fall, 800° Woodfired Kitchen.
Central Fare is located at 600 NW 1st Avenue at the mezzanine level of Virgin MiamiCentral, a six-block area of downtown Miami being developed as a lifestyle destination for transit, dining, entertainment, living and business that includes Virgin Trains' Miami station and connectivity to Metromover, Metrorail and future Tri-Rail service.
Orlando service scheduled for 2022
Virgin Trains USA recently marked its inaugural year of service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Phase 2 expansion to Orlando, representing a total investment of $4bn in private financing, recently began. This includes the development of 170 miles of new track into the completed intermodal facility located in the new South Terminal at Orlando International Airport (MCO).
Construction is expected to be complete and service will begin between South Florida and Orlando in 2022.