Port of Galveston completed a US$13 million expansion to make cruise experience even more enjoyable.
"We have to continue to improve and expand our facilities in order to attract these larger ships," said port director Michael Mierzwa, who plans to retire at year-end.
"Because the ships are not getting any smaller."
Port of Galveston, country's 4th-busiest cruise port, cut the ceremonial ribbon for the expanded passenger area at cruise terminal No. 2 on Wednesday, November 30.
The terminal now has two buildings connected by an enclosed, air-conditioned walkway. The space increased to about 150,000 square feet from a little less than 90,000 square feet. Seating increased to 2,000 from 500, allowing more people to escape the Texas heat, and there are 16 more check-in booths.
"I think it's going to enhance the cruise experience, make Galveston even more attractive," said Niels Aalund, senior vice president of the West Gulf Maritime Association.
The expansion was initiated in 2014 by Royal Caribbean, which promised a larger ship in exchange for an expanded terminal. Construction roadblocks delayed completion of the project to late June, roughly a year later than promised.
Another aspect of that expansion is a longer dock with extra bollards to secure the ship to the dock. That project, separate from the passenger area, is still ongoing because it hit roadblocks with how the port would protect the shore from erosion caused by ships pushing away from the dock.
There was also an archaeological dig for a 19th-century Republic of Texas Navy ship that slowed the initial phases of construction, though it was ultimately determined that construction wouldn't hit a historic ship if one is buried there.
This dock project is expected to cost about $3.5 million and be completed in the summer.
These expansions come as the port continues to increase its cruise business. In 2014, roughly 642,000 people boarded cruises in Galveston. That increased to 834,616 last year and is expected to hit about 875,000 this year and 950,000 next year, Mierzwa said.
"I think that cruise terminal down there isjust a great economic engine for Galveston," Aalund said.