Three ships departing Port Canaveral on Friday, September 8, 2023 are going to get a spectacular rocket launch viewing opportunity, but must be mindful of the US Coast Guard Security Zone to be activated two hours prior to the launch window.

The routes of all three ships do head south and away from the security zone, but vessels will need to be alert to ensure they do not encroach on the restricted areas without proper authorization.

Three ships from three different cruise lines will be departing Port Canaveral in time for great viewing of the SpaceX Falcon 9 6-14 launch on Friday, September 8, with a launch window from 7:32 p.m. to 12:02 a.m.

If the launch proceeds early in the window, the ships will have outstanding views of the rocket’s trail as they begin their sailings.

The three vessels scheduled to be in Port Canaveral are Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, Disney Wish; Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Liberty; and Royal Caribbean International’s Independence of the Seas. Together, the three vessels will offer prime launch viewing for as many as 13,000 cruise guests.

Independence of the Seas in Port Canaveral (Photo Copyright: Melissa Mayntz / Cruise Hive)

All three ships are scheduled to depart the port well ahead of the launch window, with Carnival Liberty the first to leave at 3:30 p.m., followed by Independence of the Seas at 4 p.m. and Disney Wish at 5 p.m. This will put all three ships well underway when the rocket lifts off, giving them adequate time to be out of the marine security zones.

All three cruise ships setting sail on Friday are heading for the Bahamas for 3-night sailings, meaning the vessels will quickly turn south after exiting the jetty channel at Port Canaveral.

The launch security zone does extend to the north edge of the channel, as well as slightly south of the channel exit as vessels would move out to sea. Cruise ships would quickly clear that boundary as they turn south for the Bahamas, however, and with the ships’ early departure times, they should be well out of the restricted area before the launch.

Zoned Areas

Security zones are established based on individual launch trajectories and where the greatest hazards may be present should something malfunction with a launch. All vessels – from cruise ships to commercial cargo vessels to casual fishermen – must obey the security protocols.

On rare occasions, ships may inadvertently stray into secure areas, which can dramatically impact or even cancel launch operations. This happened in January 2022 when Harmony of the Seas caused a SpaceX launch scrub because the ship had moved into the hazard zone.

That particular launch required a precise, instantaneous launch window, whereas Friday’s launch has a wide window that could potentially wait should a ship accidentally stray into the restricted area.

While not all cruise passengers are lucky enough to get great views of rocket launches on their oceangoing getaways, there are options for enjoying a love of space even while at sea.

Cruise ships that homeport at Port Canaveral often offer post-cruise excursions to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for guests with later flights, or guests can spend extra time in the port area before or after their cruise to visit that iconic destination with its authentic rockets and immersive space displays.

Guests visiting Grand Turk can also see a unique, 3,500-square foot commemorative display for Mercury 7 astronaut John Glenn’s splashdown after his 1962 launch as the first American to orbit the earth.

Young cruisers on Carnival cruise ships can also take part in the “Space Cruisers” program with themed activities such as designing personalized mission patches, building a Mars base, and discovering constellations. The program, partnered with Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, debuted aboard Carnival Celebration in November 2022 and has since rolled out across the Carnival fleet.

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