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Record cruise season begins in Norfolk with Carnival Magic's arrival

Kirkland: 'I think that we as a community have really exceeded their exceptions'
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Posted at 7:04 PM, May 14, 2023

NORFOLK, Va. — The Norfolk skyline looked a little different Sunday as the 4,000-passenger Carnival Magic pulled into port at the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center.

Passengers were seen arriving with their bags, ready for a journey to the Bahamas.

The Magic is the first ship in a record-breaking cruise season that will see vessels come and go each weekend from mid-May through October.

Half Moone sits on the Nauticus campus, which is overseen by Executive Director Stephen Kirkland. Kirkland says this year's cruise season will amount to 200,000 passenger visits.

“Carnival’s impact alone is about $25 million in spending in this community," Kirkland said about the season that will see the largest passenger commitment in city history. “I think that we as a community have really exceeded their exceptions, but the truth of the matter is they’re making money out of here as well.”

Kirkland expects the economic impact to ripple throughout the region as cruisers eat and stay in Hampton Roads on their way to the dock.

He says he's also working with the city of Norfolk to ensure businesses in the downtown area are welcoming and accommodating to all of the faces coming and going as they prepare for journeys around the Caribbean Sea, New England and Canada.

“We do need to make sure that our breakfast places are open, that our hotels are ready to welcome guests," he said. "We should also not forget that on these ships, there are over 1,000 crew members and this will become their home, and they just want to get off the ship and enjoy a burger."

And if it goes well, businesses could see those new customers again, and again, and again.

Last year, Carnival announced it would begin offering cruises out of Norfolk year-round in 2025.

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