The Port of Galveston in Texas has shattered its previous records in cruise operations, marking 2023 as a year of exceptional growth and prosperity.
New Cruise Records Spearhead Port Growth
With unprecedented growth in cruise passenger numbers, substantial infrastructure improvements, and significant economic impact, the Port of Galveston has solidified its position as a leading destination in the cruise industry.
According to Port Director and CEO Rodger Rees, the Gulf of Mexico port witnessed a phenomenal 42% increase in cruise passengers compared to 2022, welcoming an impressive 1.49 million cruise passengers through embarkations and debarkations.
The surge can be attributed to the opening of a third cruise terminal, enhanced popularity as a cruise home port, and the arrival of larger vessels, including the 183,521-gross-ton Carnival Jubilee, which set sailing in December carrying 6,200 passengers.
Adding to this momentum, Princess Cruises, a member of Carnival Corporation, began operations at the port with the Regal Princess becoming the largest ship in its fleet to sail from Galveston in November 2023.
Moreover, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima, the first ship in its Prima Class, marked its inaugural season in Texas in December 2023, establishing Galveston as its new homeport for the 2023-2024 cruise season.
The influx of passengers and the addition of 354 cruise ship sailings have infused new energy into Galveston’s maritime and tourism sectors.
Said Rees, “Cruise growth also fuels job growth on the waterfront. This, along with our growing roll-on/roll-off cargo business, contributed to 657,180 total labor hours in 2023. This is the highest number of labor hours in recent years and a 7% increase over 2022. These hours equate to approximately 316 full-time jobs, helping to make the maritime industry a major employer for our region.”
Major Overhaul Elevates Passenger Experience
An integral part of the Port of Galveston’s remarkable year was the comprehensive renovation of Cruise Terminal 25, the port’s oldest cruise terminal.
The $53-million refurbishment, in collaboration with Carnival Cruise Line, significantly upgraded the port’s operational capabilities and passenger services.
Additionally, Royal Caribbean opened a new cruise $125-million terminal in late 2022, becoming the homeport to Allure of the Seas, the largest ship in Port of Galveston at 225,282 tons and bringing approximately 630,000 cruisers in 2023. The terminal was the first LEED-certified, zero-energy facility in the world.
Historic Grant Awards Fueling Future Development
In addition to its triumphs in the cruise sector, the Port of Galveston achieved a significant milestone in securing funding for future growth and sustainability. The port’s strategic efforts have culminated in a record-breaking year of financial achievements.
A total of $42.3 million in state grants was awarded to the port for vital cargo and transportation infrastructure projects, with a $1 million state grant dedicated to pioneering a shore power microgrid.
This project is set to revolutionize the way docked cargo ships are powered, marking a significant step towards reducing emissions and promoting clean energy use at the port. Additionally, a federal grant of $340,000 was allocated to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety.
Anticipating Future Growth and Developments
Looking ahead, the horizon is bright for the Port of Galveston as it gears up for continued expansion in 2024.
The arrival of Carnival Jubilee, Regal Princess, Norwegian Prima, and increased sailings by Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line are set to further elevate the port’s status as a premier cruise destination.
Upcoming sailings taking place this month include Norwegian Prima; Carnival’s Dream, Jubilee, and Breeze; Royal Caribbean International’s Voyager of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, Disney Cruise Line’s Magic; and Regal Princess.
Cruise departures from the Port of Galveston visit exotic destinations in Mexico, Belize, the Honduras island of Roatan, the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica.