September marked two important milestones for the Port of Galveston. On September 30th, the Port celebrated its 15th anniversary welcoming cruise ships. And during the first week of the month, the seven-millionth passenger passed through its doors since opening in 2000. Now the fourth busiest cruise port in the U.S. and seventh in world’s top 20 cruise homeports, Port managers expect a 28 percent increase in cruise ship passengers for this year over last year.
“That’s quite an accomplishment for little-old Galveston,” asserts Port Director Michael Mierzwa. “I’ve been here since the inception of fulltime cruising and I couldn't be more proud of our facilities and the services we provide, not only to the cruise lines but to the cruise ship passengers.”
According to the Port of Galveston, as of last month there have been 2643 ship calls, 18 cruise ships, and now more than seven million cruise passengers embarking from Galveston in the last 15 years. In 2014, approximately 640,000 passengers cruised from the Port while projections this year amount to 824,000 passengers, an increase of 28 percent.
Carnival Cruise Line’s vessel MS Celebration made her inaugural voyage from Galveston on September 30, 2000. Currently, four fulltime ships embark from Galveston – three Carnival ships and one from Royal Caribbean – while a Disney Cruise Line vessel will return to Galveston in November for the season.
“A special thank you to Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruises for choosing Galveston as a cruise homeport and for entrusting us with their newest and most innovative ships in order to offer our cruise guests a unique opportunity to visit exotic ports of call in the Caribbean and the Bahamas,” says Mierzwa. The cruise industry has had a tremendous economic impact on the community, he adds, noting that there was $46 million in offshore spending in 2014 for parking, hotel stays, pre- and post-cruise packages, shopping and in restaurants, for example. The Port has invested more than $85 million in its cruise facilities since 2000. “As Carnival brought bigger ships here, we've had to expand in the current building,” notes Mierzwa. There are two terminals, the one serving Carnival – seating 4,000 passengers – that has expanded to more than 257,000 square feet, and a second terminal serving Royal Caribbean expanding to 150,000 square feet when construction is completed in early 2016.
“The community has really embraced the cruise industry in Galveston,” says Mierzwa. “I'm really gratified by it and proud of what we do.”
More information from the Port of Galveston:
With over $1.2 billion in direct spending and almost 20,000 jobs paying nearly $1.1 billion in total income, cruise related spending in Texas accounted for 6.3 percent of the cruise industry’s direct expenditures, and 5.6 percent of the industry' overall spending nationwide.
Carnival Cruise Line will reposition Carnival Breeze to replace Carnival Magic, and Carnival Liberty to replace Carnival Triumph to Texas in 2016, joining Carnival Freedom which arrived in Galveston last February. With Carnival Breeze, Carnival Liberty, and Carnival Freedom, Galveston will be home to three of the line’s most innovative ships offering the widest array of cruise durations and itineraries to top destinations in the Caribbean.
Disney Cruise Line will return to Galveston for the holiday season in 2015. Starting on November 6, 2015, Disney Cruise Line will offer a seven-night itinerary on the Disney Wonder to the Bahamas, which will include stops in Key West, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay through January, 2016.
Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas will be replaced by Liberty of the Seas on November 13, 2015. This larger vessel, the largest cruise ship sailing from Galveston at 1,112 ft., will offer an increased guest experience to passengers travelling out of Texas. Liberty of the Seas will offer 7-night Western Caribbean cruise itineraries, including Isla Roatan, Honduras; Belize City Belize; Cozumel, Mexico; Falmouth, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Costa Maya, Mexico as ports of call.