Tourism & Cruises

This South Florida port is the first in the U.S. to let passengers disembark using an app

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas entering Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas entering Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

The days of saying goodbye to a cruise vacation via a long, back-to-reality customs line are coming to an end.

Beginning Friday, Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades will become the first seaport in the country to offer the Mobile Passport Control (MPC) program, an app that allows passengers to complete their U.S. Customs declaration paperwork using their smartphone, slashing the length of the debarkation process.

The app is geared at U.S. Citizens re-entering the country and requires travelers to input biographic information. The app then provides an encrypted code that passengers present to a customs officer along with their passport to complete the process. Typically, travelers have to wait in long lines to present their paperwork to customs officers, who generally take several minutes to review each passenger.

“An added bonus is that MPC will be in service in time for the arrivals of Royal Caribbean [International]’s Harmony of the Seas and Holland America Line's ms Koningsdam,” said said Steven Cernak, Port Everglades chief executive and port director. “Mobile Passport Control is another feature that will help us enhance the cruise guest experience.”

The two new ships will arrive at the port this month, each the largest for its respective line (the 6,780-passenger Harmony of the Seas is the biggest ship in the world). Port Everglades is home to Royal Caribbean International’s most massive ships, Oasis and Allure of the Seas, which each carry 7,000-plus passengers. The port is consistently ranks among the top three ports in the world — with PortMiami and Port Canaveral in Orlando — for the number of cruise passengers who pass through each year.

For now, the app at Port Everglades is only available on iOS devices, but is expected to be available on Android later this month. The app is also available at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport.