Record Cruise Growth and Developments in Galveston

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Galveston Wharves is gearing up for a record-breaking 2024, with more passengers and ships sailing from the port than ever. The projected numbers were revealed in the budget meeting held by the port authorities on November 28. The budget projects operating revenues of more than 70 million USD.

​The robust financial outlook sets the stage for significant expansions and enhancements across the port. This includes the recent updates to Terminal 25 in preparation for the arrival of Carnival Jubilee, and the new Cruise Terminal 16, which will likely be used by MSC Cruises, underscoring Galveston’s growing prominence as a major cruise port.

Unprecedented Growth for Galveston Wharves

Galveston Wharves CEO Rodger Rees revealed the financial outlook for the port for 2024, one that promises to be a year of significant financial windfalls and growth for one of the fastest-growing US cruise homeports. 

Although Galveston does have a relatively large sector involved in cargo and industry, the cruise portion of the port’s activities promises to be the fastest-growing sector in 2024.

The port anticipates a 30% increase in cruise passengers by the end of 2023, propelled by the addition of a third cruise terminal, higher occupancies on larger ships, and an increase in sailings.

Norwegian Prima in Galveston, Texas
Photo Courtesy: Norwegian Cruise Line

The surge in passenger traffic – from one million in 2022 to an estimated 1.4 million by the end of 2023 – is expected to continue into 2024, with a projected 14% increase to 1.6 million passengers. The passengers will arrive in Galveston during one of the 388 expected cruise calls in 2024.

All in all, the new budget for 2024 projects an operating revenue of $72.5 million. This is then broken down into $35.5 million in operating expenses, and a net income of $37 million.

Enhancing Terminal Capacity for Larger Vessels

Several major developments are central to this growth. The expansion of Cruise Terminal 25 and the introduction of Carnival Jubilee later this year play a major role in the financial gains for 2024.  A significant investment of $53 million is being channeled into upgrading Cruise Terminal 25, to accommodate Carnival Jubilee, larger than any of the current Carnival ships at Galveston Wharves​.

In tandem with these developments, the construction of a new terminal for Royal Caribbean International has been completed. This $125 million, 161,334-square-foot facility has, despite some early start-up problems, been operating successfully with Harmony of the Seas sailing year-round from Galveston.

Carnival Cruise Ship in Galveston
Carnival Cruise Ship in Galveston

Plans are also in motion for the construction of a $140 million fourth cruise terminal and additional parking at Pier 16, marking another milestone in the port’s ongoing expansion​. The Pier 16 cruise terminal will likely be used by the third-largest cruise operator worldwide, MSC Cruises

Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves port director and CEO: “We’re reaping the rewards of our long-range plan to increase revenues and reduce costs to reinvest cash reserves in port improvements.”

“Next year will be a landmark year in the port’s 198-year history thanks to $42.3 million in state grants, the support of our Wharves Board and City Council, investments by our cruise partners and hard work by our great staff.”

Other investments and changes that Galveston Wharves is making include internal roadway improvements, and the expansion of the Express Lot for onsite parking at cruise terminals 25 and 28.

As the port gears up for a record-breaking year, the developments mean more options, larger ships, and enhanced services for guests, making Galveston an attractive destination for cruise passengers and a viable alternative to the massive cruise ports in Florida.

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