“You’ve got to spend money to make money. This old saying certainly applies to the Port of Galveston’s cruise business,” said Galveston Port Director and CEO, Rodger Rees in a recent port update.
The port is investing an estimated $33 mill in cruise-related infrastructure improvements now to reap many more millions in future revenues and economic growth for the community and region, he claimed.
Many of the major capital improvements were included in Galveston’s 20-Year Strategic Master Plan adopted by the Board in 2019. Other projects are upgrades to accommodate additional and larger ships and more passengers at a cruise terminal built more than 20 years ago.
“Cruising from Galveston Island has never been better. We estimate 330 sailings this year, which would be a new record in the port’s 22-year history as a cruise homeport. Passengers choose Galveston, the only homeport in Texas, for its convenience and great sailing experience to Caribbean destinations,” Rees added.
More than 30 mill people live within a 300-mile radius of the city, making the port the prime drive-to market for the central US. Galveston typically hosts more than 1 mill passengers per year, making it the US’ fourth most popular homeport.
By far the biggest cruise expansion project is the addition of a third cruise terminal. Opening in November, 2022, this terminal at Pier 10 has been made possible through a public/private partnership with Royal Caribbean International.
RCI is building the 161,000 sq ft terminal to homeport the ‘Allure of the Seas’, one of the largest cruise ships in the world. She can accommodate up to 6,780 guests and 2,200 crew members.
The cruise company is to invest an estimated $110 mill to build the terminal, while the port is investing roughly $22 mill for pier repairs, site work, utilities and port-operated cruise parking for 1,800 vehicles.
In addition, three grants from the Texas Department of Transportation have helped fund portions of the surrounding road network.
The new terminal will be a major revenue and jobs generator for the port and regional economy, Rees said.
Rees also revealed that the port will also spend about $11 mill for improvements at cruise terminals 25 and 28 (also known as cruise terminals 1 and 2) to prepare for the new ‘Carnival Jubilee’, scheduled to homeport at the beginning of November, 2023.
Now under construction, this vessel will have a capacity of 5,374 pax and 1,735 crew. She will also be the port’s first LNG-fuelled cruise ship to berth.
To accommodate the new ship, the port will build a second gangway, internal improvements to efficiently process more passengers, and a federally required facility for US Customs and Border Protection.
In addition, the ‘Ruby Princess’ will homeport from cruise terminals 25 and 28 beginning this year, sailing from December, 2022 to April, 2023.
As a self-funding city entity with no taxing authority, the port is funding all these necessary improvements through cash reserves, operating income, loans, grants and public/private partnerships.
“The great news is that all these projects reap tangible, direct revenue and jobs for the port, the city and the region,” Rees stressed.