Galveston is a port city spread over Galveston Island and Pelican Island, in Texas USA. The city's land area is approx 208 mi2 (539 km2), with population around 50,000. The city is within the "Greater Houston" metro area (Houston–The Woodlands-Sugar Land) with total population over 6,5 million.
By annual cruise shipping traffic (~1 million embarking passengers), Port Galveston is currently ranked USA's 4th busiest cruise port - an increase of 126% since 2010, when the homeporting business started.
Port Galveston TX
Port Galveston is located on mainland Texas' upper coast and on the island's eastern end. The port is at approx 9 mi (15 km) from open sea (Gulf of Mexico). The Port Authority company is "Board of Trustees of the Galveston Wharves".
In 2017, Galveston was ranked USA's 4th largest cruise port. In 2016, it generated USD 58,4 million in local passenger spending, plus USD 19,1 million in port provided services. Cruise ship operations created 1232 direct local jobs. According to port's statistical data, Texas receives from cruise ship operations around USD 1,42 billion per year (direct spending). The industry generates 25,166 state jobs and around USD 1,62 billion in income.
Bayport Cruise Terminal (Houston) is located in Pasadena Texas. The driving distance between Galveston and Houston is approx 50 mi (80 km), or about 1 hour drive in southeast direction.
Port Galveston was established in October 1825, making it the oldest on Gulf of Mexico. During late-19th century, the seaport was considered to be USA's 2nd busiest - after NYC New York. It exported most of USA's cotton, also cattle and rice. Unfortunately, on September 8, 1900, the port was devastated by the "1900 Galveston hurricane". The storm (Category 4) had strong winds of up to 145 mph (233 kph) and resulted in 6000-8000 dead - ranking it USA's deadliest hurricane disaster ever. Although recovered, seaport's market position was soon overtaken by Houston and other deep-water ports on the US Caribbean coast.
Major contributors for cruise port's current successful business are Carnival Corporation and RCCL-Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd - both currently ranked world's largest passenger shipping companies and both homeporting here large-capacity liners for year-round roundtrip departures. Today, Port Galveston is one of the most successful Caribbean USA cruise ports. On September 30, 2015, the port celebrated its 15th "cruise business" anniversary. On September 30, 2000, the Carnival ship MS Celebration started here its first homeport itinerary. In 2000-2015, the seaport handled a total of 2643 cruise ship calls (by 18 different vessels) and over 7 million passengers.
During season 2017, the cruise port handled 33 ship calls (all turnarounds / roundtrips) and 113,488 passengers. Port's previous record year was 2005 (29 ship calls). In December 2017 was also welcomed port's 9 millionth passenger - since Sept 30, 2000, when its cruising business started.
In 2018, in Galveston Carnival Cruise Lines deployed 3 vessels - Carnival Freedom, Carnival Valor and Carnival Vista, with projected annual capacity over 650,000 pax. In 2018, here were homeported the RCI-Royal Caribbean ships Liberty of the Seas and Vision of the Seas. On December 5, 2018, the port authority company (Board of Trustees of the Galveston Wharves) signed with RCCL an MoU agreement for development and concession of a new (Royal Caribbean) "Cruise Terminal 3" at Pier 10 (USD 100 million project) officially approved on December 11, 2019. The long-term (20-year initial) lease deal could be extended (via 4 consecutive 10-year options) up to 60-year exclusive terminal concession rights. Between 2003-2018, RCI brought to Galveston 2,4+ million passengers, with annual economic impact ~USD 65 million.
The port also has facilities to handle cargo ships (bulk freighters and container carriers) and dry dock facilities for marine vessel refurbishments and repairs. The port can handle all types of cargo - containers, dry bulk, liquid bulk, break bulk, RO-RO (roll-on/roll-off) vessels. There is a terminal switching railroad to facilitate larger cargo movements by rail.
Galveston cruise port
In the period 2000-2016, the port invested over USD 85 million in its cruise ship terminals.
In 2014, the port served 642,000 passengers. In 2015 were handled 834,000 passengers (28% increase). Galveston was one of the few US cruise ports with increased passenger shipping traffic in 2015, the other being Miami, San Juan Puerto Rico, Seattle and San Francisco.
In January 2014, the cruise port signed a 5-year agreement with Royal Caribbean, generating USD 1,86+ million in annual revenues. The agreement required improvements to be made to Terminal 2 to accommodate larger ships and more passengers. Terminal's size was increased to 150,000 ft2 / 13,940 m2 (passenger capacity up to 1000) at the cost of USD 10 million.
In February 2015, Carnival added the ship Carnival Freedom as its 3rd year-round vessel in Galveston TX (joining here the fleetmates Carnival Magic and Carnival Triumph). This increased the company's year capacity up to 600,000 passengers.
In 2016 were handled 875,000 passengers. In 2017 their number grew to 950,000, with economic impact USD 2,3 billion and supporting 13892 local jobs. Direct spendings are over USD 1,2 billion. Generated jobs are 20,000 (paying over USD 1,1 billion in total income). Cruise ship vacation related spending in Texas is accounted for 6,3% of the industry’s direct expenditures, and 5,6% of the industry's nationwide overall spending.
In 2016, Carnival homeported in Galveston Carnival Breeze, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Liberty. Royal Caribbean ships in 2016-2017 homeported year-round here were Liberty of the Seas and Vision of the Seas.
In August 2017 (25-27), the port was closed due to Hurricane Harvey, producing significant rains in the area during the weekend. This affected the schedules of 4 cruise ships - Carnival Breeze, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Valor and Liberty of the Seas. The port was shut down to all shipping traffic (cargo and passenger). Freedom and Valor were relocated to New Orleans. Breeze remained docked overnight in Cozumel. Liberty of the Seas was diverted to Miami.
In 2017, a total of 258 ship calls and nearly 1,9 million passengers were handled. In 2017, the cruise port reported a record monthly cruise shipping volume - 113,488 embarking passengers, on a total of 33 departures in December. The port's previous record was 29 turnarounds (December 2005). In Dec 2017, the port also celebrated its 9 millionth passenger.
For 2018, the cruise port had booked 308 ship calls, with estimated over 2 million passengers. In September 2018, Carnival repositioned Carnival Vista here - replacing Breeze and joining the fleetmates Valor and Freedom. Seasonally (2018-2019 / October - January) here were homeported 3 Carnival ships (Vista, Valor, Freedom), 2 Royal Caribbean ships (Liberty OTS, Vision OTS) and 1 Disney ship (Disney Wonder). The Disney ship offers roundtrips during autumn-winter months, then is relocated through Panama Canal to Alaska for the summer.
On December 9, 2018, Port Galveston welcomed its 10 millionth cruise passenger since 2000, when its cruising operations were started. The lucky man was Yingtao Liu, who arrived from Norman Oklahoma together with his parents, wife and 3 kids. Upon checking before boarding Carnival Vista, the family (all first-time cruisers) was greeted by Rodger Rees (port's CEO) and Pavol Drimaj (ship's Hotel Director). All family members received gifts, including 3-night hotel package for Island Bay Resort, basket with gourmet treats, CVB-logoed gift bag and Carnival-logoed beach bag with travel essentials. The cruise company also extended family's standard onboard amenities with VIP services.
Port's current cruise schedule has two liners leaving on Saturdays, two on Sundays, one on Mondays, one on Thursdays. The Walt Disney ship leaves on Fridays. Every 2 years is conducted ship channel (waterfront) dredging to maintain port's cruise ship required water depth of 45 ft (14 m). Port's shipping channel is also dredged to maintain a 150-ft (46-m) wide waterfront marine zone that allows access to piers 10 and 41.
In mid-January 2019, Port Galveston signed an agreement with Disney Cruise Line extending company's preferential berthing rights for additional 10 years (until November 1, 2028), with optional 2 renewals for additional 5-year periods. The deal also includes building a new (shared) cruise terminal with capacity to handle a vessel similarly-sized or bigger than Disney Magic-Wonder ships. As of 2019, Disney has 3 shipbuilding orders.
In 2018, port’s passenger cruise shipping grew by 13%, resulting in USD 1,5 billion in direct expenditures and a total of 26,241 supported Texas jobs with total wages USD 1,75 billion. Galveston is Texas state's only homeport and was accounted for 6,3% of USA's cruise industry overall spending, 6,2% of industry’s total employment impact and 7,6% of its income impact. In 2018, port's passenger+crew arrivals totaled ~1,4 million, with estimated USD 115 million in ashore spending (goods and services).
On December 4, 2019, Port Galveston welcomed its 1-millionth cruiser in 2019 - Mark Martin (from Mission Viejo CA). He and his wife (Laurie Steele) were booked on Enchantment Of The Seas for 5-day Western Caribbean itinerary to Mexico (Costa Maya, Cozumel).
As part of the Port Access Program 2019-2020, in mid-July 2020, TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) awarded USD 3,75 million "Rider 38 Grant" for the USD 5 million project for building a new internal roadway between 14th and 20th streets. The balance (USD 1,25 million) will come from the cruise port's operating revenue. Works on the project are planned to start in August 2021 and to be completed in 2022-Q4. The new road is a section of an internal roadway running (through the port property) from 14th Street to 53rd Street. In 2018, Galveston Wharves received USD 1+ million from Rider 48 for repaving, widening and installing drainage on OPIR-Old Port Industrial Road (between 29th Str and 33rd Str) as well as for repaving and drainage on 33rd Str (between OPIR and Harborside Drive).
Cruise itineraries from Galveston Texas
Follows a list of destinations visited by cruise ships leaving out of Galveston:
- Most departures from Galveston are operated by ships from the fleets of the cruise lines Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney.
- (Western Caribbean) 7-day cruises visit Honduras (Roatan island) and Mexico (Costa Maya and Cozumel).
- (Western Caribbean) 7-day cruises visit Jamaica (Montego Bay), Grand Cayman (George Town) and Mexico (Cozumel). Another port of call could be Belize City.
- (Eastern Caribbean) 7-day cruises visit Florida (Key West) and Bahamas (Freeport, and Nassau). Also can be visited the Bahamian private islands Half Moon Cay (Carnival), Castaway Cay (Disney) and CocoCay (Royal Caribbean).
- (Western Caribbean) 4-day cruises stop at Cozumel Mexico only.
- (Western Caribbean) 5-day cruises visit Mexico (Progreso, and Cozumel).
Galveston cruise terminal
The port consists of the Pelican Island's southern side, the Galveston Island's northern side and the Galveston Bay's entrance. The Galveston Ship Channel's authorized min depth is 45 ft (14 m). Its width at the narrowest point is 1200 ft (370 m).
- UN-LOCODE (United Nations location code) - USGLS
- supported by excellent road, rail and air infrastructure
- capability to accommodate 3 vessels at a time
- deep water channel - min depth (45 ft / 13,7 m), narrowest point width (1200 ft / 366 m)
- deep water berths
- sheltered harbor area, direct access to Gulf of Mexico
- The cruise port is accessible the whole year round – 24/7, 365 days a tear.
Cruise ships usually arrive in Galveston in late afternoon (4 or 4:30 pm) and depart from Galveston in early evening (at 7 or 8 pm). Know that disembarking passengers must pay tax on alcohol and cigarettes imported into Texas (purchased either on the ship or at ports of call).
Port Galveston has 2 passenger terminals. "Cruise Terminal 1" serves vessels of Princess and Carnival. "Cruise Terminal 2" is utilized by Disney, Celebrity and RCI-Royal Caribbean. Both terminals are with modern, most efficient customer facilities.
Cruise Ship Terminals 1 and 2
- Terminal 1 address - "2502 Harborside Dr., Galveston, TX 77550"
- Terminal 2 address - "2702 Harborside Dr., Galveston, TX 77550"
- Terminal 1 (pier 25) is for docking of Princess and Carnival ships.
- Terminal 2 (pier 27) is for docking of Disney and Royal Caribbean ships.
- location - some 40 mi / 70 km from Houston Hobby International Airport (~60 min drive distance), some 70 mi / 110 km from Houston Intercontinental Airport (~90 min drive distance)
- GPS coordinates - pending
- Embarkation: luggage must be unloaded at the terminal curbside prior to parking. Shuttles don't handle luggage during embarkation.
On November 30, 2016, the port completed an USD 13 million project that expanded the passenger area at "Cruise Terminal 2". Terminal's both buildings are now connected by an enclosed, air-conditioned walkway. The passenger area was increased from around 90,000 to 150,000 ft2 (8360 to 13950 m2). Seating was increased from 500 to 2000 seats, baggage holding-, customs- and waiting areas were expanded, and 16 more check-in booths were installed.
Terminal 2's expansion works started in 2014, financed by Royal Caribbean. However, construction roadblocks delayed the project with roughly an year. The expansion also included longer docking pier with extra bollards (short, vertical posts used for mooring). The dock project cost around USD 3,5 million and was completed in 2017. The expanded Terminal 2 now has capacity to handle up to 5,000 passengers at a time.
In 2018, on Terminal 2's channel side were added new mooring structures (bollards) to allow docking of the longer Carnival Vista. The main mooring was upgraded with 200-ton bollards (metal posts for the mooring lines). The port is currently in the conceptual stage (designs) for building a new (3rd) cruise terminal as the demand for large vessels leaving from Galveston on the weekends is constantly growing. The port also plans to add LNG bunkering facilities in near future.
(NEW) "Pier 10" Royal Caribbean Terminal 3
On December 5, 2018, the port authority company (Board of Trustees of the Galveston Wharves) signed with RCCL a MoU agreement for development and concession of a new (Royal Caribbean-exclusive) cruise terminal. The project was approved on December 11, 2019. This is a long-term (20-year initial) lease deal that could be extended (via 4 consecutive 10-year options) up to 60-year exclusive terminal concession rights.
The new Royal Caribbean terminal will be sized approx 18,600 m2 (200,000 ft2) and built on 10 acres (40,500 m2) of land at Pier 10 (port's southeast section). The new terminal has capacity to berth even Oasis-class ships (world's largest). Royal Caribbean Terminal 3 will feature dedicated bus parking, taxi ranks, large car parking, facial recognition technology.
The construction works on the USD 100 million facility were planned to start in April 2020 and scheduled for completion in November 2021. However, due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, in early-March RCCL requested a 1-year extension for starting construction works. RCCL's proposal was approved on April 28, 2020. The initial plans included here in 2021 to be homeported Allure OTS (starting November 10).
Pier 10's Cruise Terminal 3 is now scheduled for completion on September 1, 2022.
Cruise ship terminal directions and parking
- From East - take Highway 87. Board a Port Bolivar vehicle ferry. Exit the ferry onto Ferry Road (Highway 87). Turn right onto Harborside Drive, then continue to Kempner (22nd Street) - some 20 city blocks. Turn right onto Kempner (22nd Street) and follow the signs to the terminal (Pier 25 or 27).
- From North or West - take Interstate 45 South, then Exit 1C, Follow the feeder road to Harborside Drive (Highway 275), then turn left onto Harborside Drive and for ~5 mi / 8 km to Kempner (22nd Street). Turn left onto Kempner (22nd Street) and and follow the signs to the terminal (Pier 25 or 27).
- Cruise Parking Rates (subject to change) - USD 45 (on 4-day cruises), USD 50 (on 5-day cruises), USD 70 (on 7-day cruises). Parking is guarded, lighted, with 24 hour surveillance and police patrol. Phone number 409 766-6100.
- Debarkation: go directly to the Parking Lot to retrieve your car (without luggage). Then pick up passengers and luggage at the terminal curbside. Depart the terminal via shuttles. The service is provided only in parking lots with luggage drop-off signs.
If you plan to flight to Galveston, you will arrive at either Hobby Airport, HOU, or George Bush International Airport, IAH, you have to rent a car or take a cruise line shuttle. There is no public transportation to Galveston from the airports in Huston. Galveston Limousine offers service to Galveston cruise ship terminal for USD 30. Taxi fare are USD 100 from George Bush Intercontinental and USD 75 from Hobby Airport.
Cruise port's parking rate is USD 11.25 per day (subject to change). Payment options are cash, VISA / MasterCard or to pay in advance on the port's website. Four-day cruise parking costs USD 45, 5-day - USD 46.25 and 1-week (7-day) – USD 78.75.
Galveston tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
During you stay, Galveston can offer plenty of activities for any age. You can enjoy tropical rainforest adventure or rest at the sunny beach. If you prefer, you can visit amusement places near the Galveston cruise port terminal like:
- Texas Seaport Museum
- the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum
- the Moody Gardens
- the Bishop’s Palace
- the Stewart Beach Park
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