The Port of Galveston recently welcomed dozens of community members to a public gathering at Galveston Wharves, where recently completed port upgrades and proposed new projects were the topics of lively conversation. The fast-growing port has big plans for the future and was eager for feedback from local residents.
Port Officials Look to Expand Cruise Facilities
Some 80-plus people from the Galveston community turned out on December 19, 2023, for a public meeting and review of the capital projects that Galveston Wharves has recently finished and several that are underway or in the planning stages.
Officials of Galveston Wharves, which is owned by the city of Galveston, set up information tables where local people could ask questions and learn about the port’s facilities, and provide feedback to staff.
The meeting followed a strong financial report issued in November 2023, citing increases in cruise ship and cruise guest arrivals, and major improvements to cruise infrastructure during the year.
The port is estimated to end 2023 with a total of 1.5 million cruise passengers arriving and/or departing on 360 cruise ship sailings, leading to a 12% spike in operating revenues, the report showed.
Completed projects that community members learned about during the public meeting included the ambitious renovations made to Cruise Terminal 25 as the port prepared to welcome Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Jubilee, to the facility in late December 2023.
The $50 million project included two new passenger boarding bridges, an expanded dock, a new roof, and a redesigned interior with modern finishes and furniture. More than 500 additional parking spaces were added to the port’s Express Lot, and the terminal made preparations for bunkering liquified natural gas, which powers Carnival Jubilee. She is the first LNG ship to homeport at Galveston Wharves.
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Carnival Jubilee, a 183,521-gross-ton, Excel-class ship, began sailing from the port on December 23, 2023, and operates 7-day Western Caribbean cruises. Carnival Cruise Line is set to reimburse the port for most of the improvement expense as part of an agreement between the two entities.
Plans for Fourth Cruise Terminal in the Works
A similar partnership is in the works for another project detailed at the public meeting: A proposed Cruise Terminal 16.
This planned facility is a $141 million project to create the port’s fourth cruise terminal and a parking garage at Pier 16. Under the plan, a cargo warehouse at Pier 16 would be redeveloped into a modern terminal. The port has already authorized $673,000 in design and pre-engineering assessment costs.
MSC Cruises appears to be the leading cruise brand partner for a terminal at Pier 16. In August 2023, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO Rodger Rees stated that adding MSC Cruises to the port would provide guests with a European-style cruise experience and elevate the port’s status as a top US cruise home port.
Norwegian Cruise Line was also reportedly interested in developing Pier 16, but its involvement, as well as MSC Cruises’ intentions, are still unconfirmed.
“We received many positive comments about the proposed fourth cruise terminal at Pier 16, as well as our plans to build internal roadways and a parking garage to accommodate cruise traffic in the area,” said Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO.
Another public meeting will be scheduled in 2024, where additional updates will be provided.
Besides Carnival Jubilee, several other mega-ships homeport at Galveston this winter, including Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Breeze, Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima, and Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic, among others.