Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean
GALVESTON, TEXAS-- The pandemic halted the start of last year's groundbreaking for the new terminal at the Port of Galveston-- the fourth most active cruise port in North America. The mega-ship Allure of the Seas was previously set to begin sailing from the port during the winter of 2021-2022. That start has now been pushed to November 2021.
The new port facility will herald the first time an Oasis-class ship has home-ported in Texas. The ship, which carries over 6,700 passengers at full capacity, is currently set to restart cruising from Port Canaveral, as soon as August of this year.
The current Royal Caribbean ships planned for summer 2021 sailings from Galveston are Liberty of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas, both of which carry fewer than 5,000 passengers at maximum capacity. The difference in size between the ships that have sailed from Galveston in the past and ships the size of Allure necessitate the upgrade to the port facility.
Construction was set to begin last spring, but Royal Caribbean requested an extension on the completion date and was granted it by the port authorities. Port director and CEO, Roger Rees had this to say:
This construction project is part of Royal's future because of the huge market that we represent to them — 50 million people within a 12-hour drive of this port."
The engineering and architectural plans are completed and groundbreaking is set for this month. Rees stated he was told by the cruise line that out of 20-something projects on track, they had eliminated all but two: Galveston and a new facility at Freeport, Bahamas, which fits with the new emphasis on homeporting in the Bahamas this summer to skirt the CDC's continued ban on sailings from U.S. ports this summer.
Albert Shannon chairman of the Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees, which governs the port, credited Rees for maintaining contact with Royal Caribbean throughout the delay amid fears that they would pull out of the expansion, and said this:
It’s a huge shot in that it will not only benefit the port, but also labor, hoteliers and others. It’s going to be a great boost to the economy.
There currently is no definite date for cruising to restart from U.S. ports, as the industry awaits the go-ahead from the CDC, which has stated it would not rescind its previously stated date of November 1.
According to Seatrade News:
the port put $75,000 into preparing its two existing cruise terminals including adding Plexiglass dividers, touchless plumbing in restrooms and UV-C light to sanitize air conditioning systems.
Royal Caribbean continues to work with authorities from the U.S. and across the globe in preparing for a safe return to cruising including improved filtration systems on its ships.
Improvements to the existing Galveston facility and the ship it will serve
According to Royal Caribbean, the $100 million improvements to the terminal facility will include:
Improvements to the pier bulkhead and apron will be made to safely accommodate the cruise line’s largest vessels. In addition, a staging and loading area, bus and taxi staging areas, and substantial parking will be constructed.
Prior to deployment to Galveston, Allure of the Seas is set for what the cruise line calls, "amplification." The line will spend over $165 million on the ship, adding new restaurants, taller water slides, and other ship-wide enhancements. The ship was the second Oasis-class ship, built for the line in 2010. The amplification will bring it in line with the newer ships in the class: Harmony and Symphony of the Seas.
Allure will sail 7-night itineraries in the Western Caribbean and Mexico. Cruises from Galveston are famous for visits to Cozumel, and the positioning of Allure in Texas adds to Royal Caribbean's ability to serve Texans with a better experience in Coz. The current smaller ships often berth side by side to the larger Harmony while in Cozumel.
The expenditure is worth it to both the cruise line and the city of Galveston
Royal Caribbean CEO, Michael Bayley:
We are excited to partner with the Port of Galveston to develop a world-class facility which will allow us to sail our newest, largest and most innovative ships from Texas starting with Allure of the Seas, one of the largest ships in the world. The new terminal will allow us to increase our guests to the region by 50% generating a $100 million economic impact within the first year of operation.
In 2018, cruising resulted in $1.5 billion in direct expenditures and 26,241 jobs with total wages of $1.75 billion in Texas.
Two other News Break stories you might enjoy:
30 Galveston Vacation Rental Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)
9 Cruises You Might Be Able to Take from Galveston This Summer
Galveston Leads the Way to the Best Beaches in Texas
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