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By Rodger Rees, Port Director and CEO
As the cruise industry continues its strong recovery from the peak of the pandemic, the Port of Galveston is expected to set new records in 2023. This is important for the port and the community because our cruise sector generates more than half of our revenues. We’ll use increased revenues to fund business-generating capital improvements like the West End Cargo Complex, as well as much-needed repairs to aging infrastructure.
We estimate 362 sailings in 2023, a new record in the port’s 22-year history as a cruise homeport. Passengers choose Galveston, the only homeport in Texas and fourth most popular in the U.S., for its convenience and great sailing experience to Western Caribbean destinations.
More than 30 million people live in a 300-mile radius, making us the prime drive-to cruise market for the central U.S., including Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas, Oklahoma City and Little Rock.
Our waterfront commercial area, with its restaurants, hotel, historical museums and other attractions, offers visitors a front-row seat to our working port. It’s adjacent to Galveston’s historic downtown with blocks of fine and casual restaurants, shops, historical architecture and museums.
MAJOR CRUISE SCHEDULE EXPANSIONS
We expect to host more than 1 million cruise passengers in 2023, breaking our previous 2019 record. This is due to three things: additional sailings, larger ships and fuller ships.
Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines are scheduled to sail from the Port of Galveston in 2023. Royal Caribbean will have five ships, Carnival will have four ships and Princess will have two ships. Disney and Norwegian will each sail one ship.
Carnival will regularly sail the Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream and Carnival Vista. The newly built Carnival Jubilee will replace the Vista in November. The Jubilee will be the port’s first LNG-fueled cruise ship, which aligns with our Green Marine air quality environmental initiatives.
Royal Caribbean will sail the Allure of the Seas January-October, Adventure of the Seas January-May and in December, Radiance of The Seas January-April, Voyager of the Seas May-December and Harmony of the Seas November-December.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s new ship, the Prima, will visit Galveston for sailings in October, then homeport here beginning in December 2023. This will mark the first time Norwegian has sailed regularly from the island. She will be the first of six Project Leonardo-class ships in the NCL fleet.
Disney and Princess cruise lines offer seasonal sailings from the port. The Disney Magic and Ruby Princess will sail January-April, with the Regal Princess to sail November-December.
THE BIGGEST NEWS
By far, our biggest and most exciting cruise expansion news is the addition of a third cruise terminal. The state-of-the-art Royal Caribbean International terminal will open in November at Pier 10. The 161,000-square-foot terminal will include 1,900 on-site parking spaces.
With the opening of our third cruise terminal at Pier 10, we’re renaming our existing cruise terminals to correspond with their pier locations.
We’re planning renovations to the renamed Cruise Terminal 25 (formerly Cruise Terminal 1) to handle the increased passenger counts associated with the Carnival Jubilee’s arrival in 2023. These renovations will include two new passenger boarding bridges with enhanced boarding areas and expansion of check-in areas and screening, as well as an updated and expanded U.S. Customs and Border Patrol area.
We’re adding approximately 500 off-site employee parking spaces to serve all terminals. In 2023, we’ll be expanding our express parking at Cruise Terminal 28 (formerly Cruise Terminal 2) by approximately 450 customer parking spaces.
Finally, as I described in my previous column, we’re making major investments in traffic management infrastructure and technologies to reduce the impact cruise-related traffic has on the community and to make it easier and faster for cruise passengers to park and board.