Florida environment officials give OK for bigger cruise ships in Key West

By Bruce Ritchie | 03/26/2024 12:08 PM EDT

The Legislature in 2021 passed a transportation bill that included language nullifying Key West voters’ restrictions on cruise ships.

The Regent Seven Seas Mariner cruise ship at a dock.

Larger cruise ships could permanently be allowed to dock in Key West under a new proposal from the state's Department of Environmental Protection. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is proposing permanently allowing larger cruise ships to dock in Key West, putting forward a significant port lease modification after the Legislature blocked Key West voters from imposing restrictions on ships in 2021.

The department’s recommendations would allow cruise ships nearly 50 feet longer to dock at the Key West harbor by expanding the sea bottom where cruise ships can dock by about 1.3 acres.

The proposal goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the Cabinet at their meeting Tuesday morning. DEP has recommended that they approve the lease modification.


Pier B Development Corp., owned by Mark Walsh, requested the expansion after being cited by DEP for improperly mooring vessels outside of the present leased area. The company has been operating under a temporary agreement with DEP to allow the cruise ships outside of the previously leased areas.