Major Cruise Homeport Is Booming With Big Numbers

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The Port of Galveston is experiencing unprecedented growth in its cruise industry, with new terminals and an increase in sailings driving economic growth and job creation. This surge in the cruise sector is coupled with strong cargo performance, contributing to an overall successful start to 2023.

It promises to be a big year for the Port of Galveston in general. It will be the first full year of operations for the new Royal Caribbean cruise terminal, Carnival Jubilee will be the first LNG-powered cruise ship to homeport in Galveston in December, and the port hopes to get final confirmation on a new terminal with MSC Cruises this year. 

Cruising From Galveston Reaches New Heights

The Port of Galveston has started the year 2023 strong. Cruise statistics for February 2023 show significant growth compared to the same month last year, with the port hosting 71 sailings, a 22% increase, and a staggering 123% increase in passenger movements (embarkations and debarkations). 

Furthermore, port cruise parking customers saw a 154% increase. The Port of Galveston estimates a total of 355 sailings for 2023, setting a new record in its 22-year history as a cruise homeport. All this is not just leading to more cruise passengers in Galveston, but also creating a huge number of jobs.

Cruise Ship in Galveston, Texas
Photo Credit: Ceri Breeze / Shutterstock

Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO: “With all of this going for our port, it’s no surprise that popular cruise lines Carnival and Royal Caribbean, both long-time port cruise partners, are investing in cruise terminal infrastructure and newer and larger ships for Galveston.”

“This cruise and cargo growth translates into new jobs and more work hours for union workers. Experts forecast more than 650,000 union hours on the Galveston waterfront in 2023, the highest in years.”

The booming cruise industry can be attributed to the increasing popularity of cruise vacations, Galveston’s position as the fourth most popular U.S. cruise port, its prime location within a day’s drive for over 30 million people, and the opening of new cruise terminals.

Port of Galveston Terminal Expansions to Boost Traffic

The Port of Galveston’s cruise industry is thriving, thanks partly to new, upcoming, and repurposed cruise terminals and cruise lines homeporting a significant amount of new and larger ships in Galveston. 

In November 2022, Royal Caribbean International opened a new $125 million cruise terminal in Galveston, powered entirely by solar panels. The terminal is expected to boost traffic to Galveston by up to 630,000 travelers this year. 

It is home to the 5,400-guest Allure of the Seas cruise ship, the largest ship currently in Texas. Royal Caribbean offers 7-night Western Caribbean cruises from Galveston to destinations such as Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico and Roatan in Honduras.

Royal Caribbean Galveston Terminal

The port is also planning a public-private project with MSC Cruises to construct a new $110 million cruise terminal and parking garage. The terminal, estimated to cost $70 million, with an additional $40 million for the parking garage, will be built in a warehouse currently occupied by Del Monte Fresh Produce. 

If everything proceeds according to plan, construction could begin in 2024 when Del Monte’s lease ends, with cruises potentially starting in 2025.

Renovations have also been carried out on Cruise Terminal 25 to accommodate the new LNG-powered Carnival Jubilee, set to arrive in December 2023. Carnival Jubilee is an Excell-class cruise ship of 182,800 gross tons, with a capacity for 5,400 guests and 1,700 crew members. The ship will sail seven-day Western Caribbean itineraries and boast features such as the BOLT roller coaster on the top deck.

Combined, the three terminals are anticipated to welcome millions of guests, confirming Galveston’s position as a major player in the U.S. cruise industry. The influx of guests will create new job opportunities and contribute to the regional economy while also boosting the growth of the Port of Galveston.

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