The Port of Galveston, on the sunny Gulf Coast of Texas, continued to enjoy a robust cruise industry rebound in 2023, and is on track to see a double-digit increase in operating revenues. A Thanksgiving holiday message from the port’s top official reviews the facility’s advances in the last year and looks ahead to a rosy future.
Port Revenues, Cruise Arrivals on the Rise
A strong financial report, increases in cruise ship and cruise guest arrivals, and major improvements to its cruise infrastructure are among the strides the Port of Galveston made in 2023.
The port, also called Galveston Wharves, is set to end 2023 with total cruise passengers of 1.5 million, arriving and/or departing on 360 cruise ship sailings and leading to a 12% spike in operating revenues, new data revealed on November 21, 2023 shows.
“Our cruise business, which generates about 60 percent of port revenues, has made a phenomenal recovery. We’ll set new revenue and passenger records this year, thanks to the opening of our third cruise terminal in late 2022, expansion of our cruise parking business and our growing popularity as a cruise home port,” said Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO.
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Located on Galveston Island at the northwestern edge of the Gulf of Mexico, the port is the world’s fourth busiest in terms of cruise arrivals and is a major drive-to port for guests hailing from the Southwest and from Gulf Coast cities. Cruise ships departing from Galveston primarily sail Western Caribbean itineraries, but some cruise lines offer Eastern Caribbean voyages as well.
Mega-Ships Deliver Big Gains to Galveston Wharves
A game-changer for the port in the last year was the opening in late 2022 of Royal Caribbean’s 161,000-square-foot cruise terminal built to accommodate the line’s Oasis-class Allure of the Seas, which at the time was the largest cruise ship afloat.
Home-porting the mega-ship in Galveston for most of 2023, Royal Caribbean contributed up to 6,700 guests per itinerary on Allure of the Seas’ Western Caribbean sailings. In October 2023, the ship was redeployed to Port Canaveral, Florida.
In 2024, the 5,500-guest Harmony of the Seas and the 3,600-guest Voyager of the Seas are slated to sail from Galveston for at least part of the year.
Additionally, Carnival Cruise Line’s new-build, Carnival Jubilee, is poised to begin sailing from Galveston following her launch in December 2023. The 6,500-guest ship will be home-ported at Galveston’s Terminal 25, which was redesigned to accommodate the ship at an investment cost of $53 million.
Carnival Cruise Line will reimburse the port for most of the improvement expense as part of an agreement between the two entities. Carnival Jubilee will sail 7-night Western Caribbean cruises visiting Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico as well as Roatan, Honduras.
“Cruise Terminal 25 is getting a much-needed, major makeover before the newly built Carnival Jubilee arrives in December. Long-time port partner Carnival Cruise Line will reimburse the port for more than 80 percent of the costs through a new operating agreement signed this year,” Port Director and CEO Rodger Rees said.
Meanwhile, MSC Cruises has indicated it might be interested in collaborating to build another cruise terminal at Galveston’s Pier 16. The port hopes to redevelop an existing cargo warehouse into a cruise terminal, and has already authorized $673,000 in design and pre-engineering assessment costs.
“We can’t do these big projects without strong partnerships with public and private entities. I’m grateful for all the people who believe in the port and help us deliver our mission,” said Rodger Rees, port director/CEO.
According to the holiday message, efforts to improve traffic flow through the busy port also are underway, with state grants helping to build a new road inside the port and to repair and improve the 25th Street walkover bridge, which connects the parking areas to Terminal 25.