5 key insights to Galveston’s thriving cruise market

Galveston, Texas’ sole cruise port, has come a long way in recent years. With the considerable catchment area of Houston on its doorstep, Galveston is the fourth most popular port for cruise ship departures.

A large cruise ship, the Carnival Jubilee, docked at a VIP dock.

A Look at the Galveston Cruise Port

Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO, expects continued sustained growth this year and the addition of a fourth terminal in 2025. The future looks bright.

1. Cruise passenger traffic surges

Galveston welcomed 1.49 million cruisers in 2023, a 42% increase on the previous year. The opening of a third cruise terminal has driven this growth.

According to the Tourism Economic Impact Report, cruise guest spending contributed $80 million to the local economy in 2022. 

2. Record cruise ship sailings

A cruise ship docked next to a Coca Cola truck at the MSC Cruises embarkation point in Galveston.

The port welcomed 354 cruise ship sailings last year – a new record high. It’s the increase in cruise ship turnarounds and a shift to newer, larger ships. This includes the new 6,500-guest Carnival Jubilee.

Carnival Cruise Line will have four ships homeporting from Galveston later this year. In late 2025, MSC Cruises is scheduled to debut at the Texas port with the MSC Seascape. Galveston is also home to Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

3. Job creation

The growth in cruise traffic and other port operations has been good news for the local labor market, and labor hours have increased to 657,180 hours, equivalent to approximately 316 full-time jobs. Beyond the port, Galveston’s tourism economy supported nearly 12,000 jobs in 2022.

4. Cruise Terminal 25 upgrade

An airport with rows of blue and red chairs, located in Galveston.
Terminal 25 in Galveston.

Rees said the terminal received a significant renovation partly funded by $50 million in revenue bonds. This was completed in partnership with Carnival Cruise Line, before the Carnival Jubilee’s arrival in December 2023. As well as making it easier to accommodate larger vessels, it has streamlined passenger embarkation and debarkation.

5. Future Projects

Further developments are on the horizon with plans for a fourth cruise terminal, which could be approved as soon as next month. The Cruise Terminal 16 project will become the home of MSC Cruises starting in 2025.

A $50.1 million cargo expansion project is planned, and the port is preparing for its 200th birthday in 2025.

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