NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — In an effort to one day dock larger ships, Norfolk is studying what improvements need to be made at its current cruise pier.

The $36 million Decker Half Moone Cruise & Celebration Center opened next to Nauticus on Norfolk’s waterfront in 2007. In 2019, its website lists more than 30 ports of call.

“Between now and Christmas day we will have 35,000 cruise ship passengers come through here … our program is growing,” said Stephen Kirkland, Executive Director of Nauticus.

Currently the largest ocean liner that has been berthed at the facility is the Carnival Sunrise, which can carry 3,000 passengers. However Carnival is now building ships that can carry 4,500.

In its latest issue, Cruise Travel Magazine acknowledged that Norfolk’s terminal faces stiff competition from the cities of Baltimore and Charleston.

“It’s an incredible economic impact for this community, and so we just want to continue to be on the cutting edge … as ships grow and fleets grow, we want to make sure we are in competition with these other ports, we can accommodate them,” Kirkland said.

The Cruise Line International Association says Carnival and other cruise operations create $153 million in direct spending, 2,800 jobs and $170 million in wages in Virginia each year. 

Cruise companies have already reserved dock space in Norfolk through 2021.