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JaxPort celebrates cruise industry's 10-year mark

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Updated: 10/28/2013 6:32 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- JaxPort's cruise industry marked a milestone Monday. But what does the future hold?

"I never thought I'd see a cruise terminal here," said porter supervisor James Scripen.

Scripen has greeted a lot of faces in the JaxPort cruise industry's 10-year run -- 1.5 million passengers. He said he remembers the first Jacksonville cruise ship like it was yesterday. They weren't even sure if it would be able to clear the Dames Point Bridge.

"I think it cleared by maybe 3 or 4 feet," he said.

The terminal off Interstate 295 was designed to be temporary. A decade has passed.

"For the time being, we will maintain and preserve and attempt to grow that business right here," said Nancy Rubin, with JaxPort.

But cruise ships are getting bigger, and there isn't much room to grow. As it stands, Carnival Fascination barely clears the bridge.

Jaxport's contract with Fascination ends in five years. That ship will likely be replaced by something larger. And JaxPort will be out of luck.

"We need to be on the other side if we want to get the larger ships," said Scripen. "We have property in Mayport. Maybe that will be the next cruise terminal."

Rubin said JaxPort won't let the cruise industry slip away. It's determined to find a solution. Scripen hopes they can pull it off for the sake of his livelihood.

"And not only my job but the hotels, the cab drivers, the restaurants, yeah, it's good for the city," he said.

According to JaxPort, the cruise industry has an annual economic impact of more than $67 million locally.


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