GALVESTON, TEXAS — A rally showing support (and hope) for the return of cruising to the port took place on the wharf on Monday, May 3. Participating officials included the president of Carnival Cruise Line, members of the Federal Maritime Commission, Galveston city and port officials, as well as local businesses at the Port of Galveston. The celebration was designed to highlight the economic impact of cruising in Galveston and throughout Texas.
Two of Carnival’s ships returned to the port during the fanfare with an escort by the Bay Houston Towing Company tugboat Wesley A. The ships returning to port were the Carnival Breeze and the Carnival Vista.
With the ships as a backdrop the speakers included:
- Carnival President Christine Duffy
- Galveston Mayor Dr. Craig Brown
- FMC Commissioners Louis E. Sola and Carl W. Bentzel
- President Ad Interim UTMB Partnership Dr. BenRaimer
- Port of Galveston Director/CEO Rodger Rhees
- Chairman, Board of Trustees, Port of Galveston Albert Shannon
- International Longshoremen's Association President Alan Robb
- Vacations2Go CEO Emerson Hankamer
- Galveston Park Board CEO Kelly de Schaun
- Bay Houston Towing Company President Philip Kuebler
- Galveston Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Gina Spagnola
In her speech, Duffy had this to say:
"Today was yet another significant milestone in our efforts to resume cruising in the U.S. We've said all along that we would like the cruise industry be given equal treatment of other travel and hospitality companies and this event sent a strong and unified message that we need to start sailing again."
During the celebrations crew members from both ships, Vista and Breeze received COVID-19 vaccinations on-site from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Carnival Cruise Line is the number one cruise operator from the port and the only cruise line with three ships normally sailing year-round from the port. Besides Vista and Breeze, Carnival Dream adds to the nearly 750,000 passengers per year on 175 voyages sailing from the port of Galveston.
The Port of Galveston at the Galveston Wharves is the 4th most popular cruise homeport in North America and the only cruise port in Texas. Galveston’s cruise business generates 1.6 billion in expenditures annually and 27,000 jobs throughout the state of Texas.
The CDC announced new specifications on Wednesday, May 6 design to help cruise lines move forward with a projected return to cruising in the summer of 2021. The guidelines include requiring the cruise lines to perform test cruises in lieu of requiring vaccinations for all crew and passengers.
Though most other cruise lines were quick to reposition sailings to non-US ports as the CDC drug its feet providing these guidelines, Carnival remained steadfast in its commitment to American ports as well as the hope of restarting sailing without the requirement of vaccines.
The requirement for vaccines enacted by some cruise lines is likely to pose a problem in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that businesses in Florida are prohibited from requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order in April that bans government-mandated vaccine passports or documentation but stopped short of banning businesses from doing so, meaning cruise lines using the port are free to require passengers to provide proof of vaccinations. The other major line to operate from the Port of Galveston is Royal Caribbean, which has instated vaccination requirements on some of its sailings that depart from foreign ports but has yet to determine its policy for cruises from U.S. ports.
Carnival’s website is currently showing cruises available for booking as early as July 5th. Prices for 7-night cruises during the summer average around $1,000 per person. Shorter cruises are available throughout the season. Prices fall dramatically at the end of the summer season. On its COVID-19 page, the cruise line makes no mention of vaccination requirements, only enhanced health screenings, which include pre-cruise COVID testing. Masks and social distancing will be required.