Galveston Wharves, the cruise port on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and MSC Cruises took the first step toward an agreement that could bring a fourth cruise terminal to the growing port. The move follows the November 2022 opening of a sprawling new terminal built in partnership with Royal Caribbean.
MOU Was Signed in December Between MSC and Port of Galveston
Galveston Wharves and MSC Cruises have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) that outlines parameters for the possible development and operation of a terminal at piers 16-18, according to a December 21 announcement by the port. It said the MOU was signed on December 7.
Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves port director and CEO, said, “We’re excited about the huge potential of this mutually beneficial public-private partnership. Adding MSC to our family of cruise lines would offer our cruise guests an elegant, European-style cruise experience.
“It would elevate our status as a top U.S. cruise homeport, boost the regional economy and allow MSC to reach a new market of millions of cruise passengers in the Central U.S.,” Rees said.
Galveston already has three cruise terminals in operation. A fourth terminal is included in the port’s 20-Year Strategic Master Plan, and the port expected it would be built between 2030 and 2040.
But earlier this month, the port revealed that a cruise company, which was not identified at the time, had come forward and expressed interest in building a new terminal, likely moving up that timeline.
Rubén A. Rodríguez, president, MSC Cruises USA, said, “The prospect of developing a new homeport in Galveston is exciting because it represents a big step in our ongoing North American expansion. Bringing our modern, glamorous ships to Texas would provide even more access and opportunities for guests and travel advisors to experience the future of cruising with MSC Cruises and our unique European style. We look forward to productive discussions with the Galveston Wharves as we chart MSC’s future in the U.S. market.”
The MSC Cruises fleet consists of 21 vessels worldwide. Two additional ships will join the fleet by 2025, and the company said it has options for six more vessel orders in place through 2030.
MSC Divina and MSC Seascape are both home-ported in Miami. MSC Meraviglia, currently sailing from Port Canaveral, in Florida, is scheduled to begin home-porting in New York starting in 2023.
Another Boon For the Port of Galveston
The Port of Galveston is the fourth most popular cruise homeport in the U.S., hosting more than 1 million cruise passengers a year.
Wharves Port Director Rees said, “Our popularity as a cruise homeport is reflected in the growth of our passenger counts and sailings. In 2023 we forecast a record 362 sailings, the highest in the port’s 22 years as a cruise port. This is great news for the port and our region because our cruise business is a major revenue and jobs generator.”
The local impact of the port’s 2022 cruise activity includes 3,500 jobs, $568 million in local business revenue, and $73.5 million in local purchases by passengers and crew. A fourth cruise terminal is forecast to generate an additional 925 jobs, $177 million in revenues, and $21 million in local purchases.
Galveston Wharves said that Royal Caribbean’s newly opened, $125 million terminal was a game changer for the port, generating 800 new jobs and $1.4 billion in local receipts. The 161,000-square-foot terminal on 10 acres can handle up to 630,000 cruisers embarking in Galveston.
It also enables Royal Caribbean to base its largest ships at the Texas port. The Oasis-class Allure of the Seas, one of the world’s largest cruise ships sailing today and carrying 6,780 guests, is home-porting at Galveston for a series of Western Caribbean cruises this winter. Neither of the port’s other two terminals can accommodate the industry’s largest ships.
Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream and Carnival Vista currently sail from Galveston, as does Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic.