Now that a newly built cruise terminal at Galveston Wharves can accommodate the world’s biggest cruise ships, the Texas gulf coast city is expecting big returns in both revenue and reputation.
The terminal, a public-private partnership between Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Galveston Wharves, elevates Galveston’s standing as a major player among U.S. cruise ports.
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class Allure of the Seas, one of the world’s largest cruise ships sailing today and carrying 6,780 guests, departed Nov. 13 on her debut voyage from the Galveston port on a seven-night Western Caribbean itinerary.
Terminal’s Impact A ‘Game-changer’
In a statement with Royal Caribbean celebrating the official opening of the new terminal, Galveston Port Director Rodger Rees called the $125 million terminal a game-changer, saying it would generate 800 new jobs for the region and $1.4 billion in local business services revenue.
The sprawling terminal, with 161,000 square feet on 10 acres, can handle up to 630,000 cruisers embarking in Galveston. The port has two other cruise terminals, but neither can accommodate the industry’s largest ships.
“As the only cruise homeport in Texas, we draw more than 1 million cruise guests a year from a 30-million population drive-to market,” said Rees, referring to pre-Covid statistics from 2019, when roughly 1.1 million cruisers embarked in Galveston.
In 2020 just 228,000 did so, according to port records. Other key drive-to markets that compete with Galveston include New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala.
“There were doubters,” Rees noted in a separate statement, “when Covid caused delays after the project was announced in 2019, but we all kept the faith. Thank you to Royal Caribbean for your commitment to this project and for believing in Galveston during a challenging time for the cruise industry and ports across the U.S.”
Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean’s president and CEO, said the cruise line is “thrilled to take family vacations to a whole new level in Texas.”
“Our new, 161,334-square-foot terminal opens up a world of vacation possibilities for families in the Southwest. Now our unmatched Oasis Class ships, known as the best family vacations in the industry, can set sail from Galveston,” he said, adding that Allure of the Seas “is just the beginning.”
Record Year Expected In 2023
Like other cruise ports around the globe, Galveston is banking on a boom year in 2023, as the cruise industry continues to stabilize and vacationers return to the sea in big numbers.
Rees predicted that the Port of Galveston will break records next year, with 362 sailings and a record number of cruise guests departing from the port.
Rees said forecasts point to $58.7 million in total revenues at the port, with $40.5 million generated from its cruise business. He added that Galveston Wharves would “reinvest port revenues to benefit the Galveston community with economic growth, jobs and sales tax revenues. State and local taxes will generate another nearly $6 million,” he said.
Allure of the Seas will continue to sail seven-night Western Caribbean cruises through 2022, then offer four- and five-night cruises to Costa Maya and Cozumel in January.
Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas, also homeporting in Galveston, is currently sailing a series of four- and five-night cruises to Costa Maya and Cozumel. The ship accommodates 3,835 guests.
Beginning Jan. 30, Royal’s 2,466-guest Radiance of the Seas will operate nine- and 10-night cruises from Galveston to the Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean, Colombia, Panama, and the Bahamas.
Other cruise lines seeing opportunity in Galveston include Norwegian Cruise Line. Its new Norwegian Prima, a 3,215-guest ship, operated two sailings after its debut in October and will return to homeport in Galveston for the winter 2023-24 season.
Four Carnival Cruise Line ships also homeport in Galveston, including Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream, and Carnival Vista. Carnival Jubilee will sail from the port next year.