Steady Growth for Carnival in Galveston

Carnival Vista in Galveston

The Carnival Radiance and Breeze will join the Vista and Dream sailing from Galveston year-round in May 2021, Carnival Cruise Line announced today.

“We’ve been undergoing steady growth in Galveston since we started sailing there in 2000 with one ship,” said Fred Stein senior director of revenue planning and fleet development, Carnival Cruise Line.

The line went to three ships out of Galveston in 2015, with the Vista taking the place of the Breeze recently and adding more berths to the market.

“The next level of growth is adding a fourth ship,” Stein continued.

The four ships will mean Carnival is posting a 25 per cent increase in berths out of Galveston, according to Cruise Industry News data, with over 13,000 berths based in the Texas port in 2021.

Demand comes via 37 million people within a 500-mile drive, according to Stein, and many who fly in from the West Coast to Houston.

Fred Stein

The Radiance, which will be converted from the Carnival Victory after a $200 million drydock next year, is moving to Galveston from Port Canaveral, while the Breeze comes over from Port Everglades for her Texas return.

The Freedom will be redeployed elsewhere, with an announcement expected soon.

All told, Carnival could carry nearly one million guests from Galveston on 235 itineraries in 2021, ranging from five to 14 days.

Stein said the port’s infrastructure can handle the four ships, and parking capacity was more than sufficient. 

The Radiance will concentrate on mainly five-day cruises, but three new nine-day options are available that depart on Fridays. Stein said these voyages were ideal as they offered a nine-day vacation, but for the most guest, only a week off work.

One nine-day option will call at Cozumel, Limon (Costa Rica), and feature a partial Panama Canal transit or a visit to Colon (Panama), while another features Key West, Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Nassau. The third voyage calls at Grand Cayman, Mahogany Bay (Isla Roatan), Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel.

“This is the most differentiated content we have been able to offer from Galveston,” Stein told Cruise Industry News. 

The company is also offering two 14-day Carnival Journeys sailings, featuring eight ports each. 

“Those offer a lot of differentiated port content you wouldn’t get on a short cruise,” Stein said.

The Carnival Breeze will move into the short cruise rotation, sailing year-round four- and five-day itineraries.

“The Breeze has been in Galveston for quite a while,” Stein said. “She is very popular in Texas and will take on the four- and five-day cruises that the Dream is doing.”

Four-day “weekend” cruises leave on Thursdays and call in Cozumel while five-day cruises depart on Mondays and Saturdays with calls at Cozumel and either Progreso or Costa Maya. 

The Dream will move to a new six- and eight-day cruise schedule in May 2021 while the Vista will sail week-long cruises on two separate Western Caribbean itineraries.

Carnival plans to carry its 8 millionth guest from Galveston in early 2021.

2000 to 2020

Carnival started year-round cruising out of Galveston in 2000 with the Carnival Celebration, which was based in the port and offered four- and five-day Western Caribbean sailings at the time.

Double Carnival Call in Galveston

At the time, the Miami-based brand was the first major cruise line to base a ship year-round out of Galveston. Carnival made a five-year deal in 2000 and in return, the port invested in renovating its passenger terminal and building a parking facility for 1,100 cars.

It’s been all growth then, with the Jubilee joining the Celebration in 2002. 

The ships got bigger over time, and two ships became three in 2015, with 2021 set to see four ships sailing year-round for Carnival from Galveston.

Carnival’s environmental hurdles detailed in court documents

The world’s largest cruise company, Carnival Corp. faces a herculean task in eliminating single-use plastics from its ships, a mission that has taken on increased urgency in recent months.

The plastics challenge was underscored by the disclosure in federal court that Carnival brands last year bought some 239 million single-use plastic items, including some 50 million plastic beverage bottles.

Other purchases by Carnival include 67 million plastic straws, more than 39 million plastic bags, 16 million plastic cups and 11 million individual amenity bottles.

Those numbers were disclosed in a filing submitted as part of a court hearing on Carnival Corp.’s ongoing probation for a 2016 conviction of its Princess Cruises brand on environmental charges.

Prosecutors are concerned about the final destination of all of that plastic, a major focus of the government’s post-trial scrutiny.

They are also pressing Carnival to speed up what prosecutors say has been an unhurried approach to tackling plastic waste.

Throughout the cruise industry, companies are adopting new approaches to plastics because the stuff has the potential to wind up as indigestible food for marine life and nondegradable litter in the ocean.

Lines with smaller fleets and fewer brands than Carnival have been able to act quickly. For example, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic in July declared itself free of single-use plastics.

Carnival has set a target of a 50% reduction in single-use plastics on its ships by the end of 2021.

Plastics reduction is one of several initiatives the government added to Carnival’s responsibilities in an environmental-compliance program as part of a June settlement of charges that the cruise company had violated its probation conditions.

Carnival’s size and corporate structure make it hard to get an effort as big as plastics-removal going quickly. 

A monitor appointed to help the court, Washington lawyer Steven Solow, said in his first annual report that Carnival’s 10 brands function more like an association of companies than an integrated corporation. That was not a secret, of course. The brands have long celebrated their relative management independence.

Still, Carnival Corp. management, he said, could be bringing more to the table. 

“The company is not listening to what their own people are asking for,” Solow said.

Improving the corporate culture to make compliance with environmental laws a priority has been a major emphasis for Solow, a partner at the Baker Botts law firm in Houston who leads a team of lawyers with environmental and Department of Justice backgrounds.

Solow, whose job was created as a condition of Carnival’s probation, commissioned a study of the compliance culture at Carnival Corp. by Propel Sayfr AS, a Norwegian safety consulting firm with a speciality in “culture development.” 

The survey found Carnival’s compliance culture was “less mature” than 73% of other companies in the maritime and similar industries.

At a status conference on the case, Carnival Corp. chairman Micky Arison said the company was disappointed with the results of the survey. 

“Obviously, we have to improve,” he said. “We take the culture survey seriously.”

A Justice Department lawyer who prosecuted Princess for dumping oily water overboard in 2016 expressed some doubts.

“There are some signs we have a continuing problem,” said Richard Udell, a senior litigation counsel with the department’s environmental crimes section.

As an example, Udell said that Carnival ignored his request to tally the number of plastic bottles it uses each year. The company argued that since most of them are recycled anyway it didn’t matter. Udell said Carnival recycles some bottles in countries with “minimal infrastructure” and allows contractors to self-certify that the bottles were recycled.

“How do we know they’re recycled and not thrown back in the ocean or sent to a landfill?” Udell asked.

Vice Admiral William Burke, Carnival’s chief maritime officer, said at the status conference, “The reason I have a pretty good sense they’re getting recycled is that we’re getting paid for them.”

Udell said Carnival had not previously disclosed that and requested data about the prices Carnival receives.

Burke said he didn’t think beverage bottles were slipping through Carnival’s waste management machinery to end up in the ocean. 

“The stuff we’re having trouble with is the small stuff, the toothpicks and straws that are hard to find,” he said.

Carnival’s inability to sort plastic out of food waste before it was discharged overboard was one of the problems that led to a $20 million fine in June as part of its Probation Revocation Settlement Agreement.

Carnival is now two and a half years into its five-year probationary period, which is scheduled to end on April 2022. Some worry that it will reach that milestone without having put in place a sustainable compliance culture.

“Without the leadership saying this is imperative, that is the concern,” said Solow, whose team is paid by Carnival and whose budget for the first year of oversight is $6 million to $7 million, according to court filings.

U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Seitz said she had hoped that the 2016 probation oversight would have been much smoother at this point than it has proven to be.

“I feel like I keep pushing the rock up the hill, and it keeps rolling down on me,” Seitz said. “And we’re not going anyplace.”

She also expressed impatience at the continued problems with pollution but said Carnival has shown in the past it can improve its culture, particularly in the safety area.

“Looking at that, it gives me hope for this company,” Seitz said. “I believe it can be best in its class, but I keep seeing repeated incidents.”

Arison said Carnival had hired additional consultants.

“I think we’ve hired experts now that will, I hope, get to the bottom of things,” he said.

Cruise line upgrades to transform PortMiami

Norwegian Cruise Line will soon open a new Miami terminal.
Norwegian Cruise Line will soon open a new Miami terminal.

PortMiami has reached a series of long-term deals with cruise lines that will consolidate its position as the cruise capital of the world for the near future.

The agreements pave the way for $675 million in new terminal construction for Carnival Corp., Virgin Voyages and MSC Cruises, and they closely follow terminal pacts with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) and Disney Cruise Line

Together, the six cruise companies will have preferential berthing rights at all but one of the 11 terminals envisioned by the port. Each cruise company plans use the new terminals to bring bigger ships to Miami than they have previously operated there.

The latest agreement was announced by Carnival Corp., whose Carnival Cruise Line brand is the biggest tenant by passenger volume and is gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022.

“Over the last several months, we have had very constructive discussions with PortMiami and Miami-Dade County leaders about our plans for Miami and our goal to enhance and grow our capacity and operations in our hometown,” Carnival president Christine Duffy said.

Carnival’s agenda includes bringing the second ship in its 5,200-passenger Excel class to the new terminal in 2022, in time for its jubilee.

To do so, Carnival agreed to guarantee 2.25 million passenger movements a year through PortMiami for at least the next 20 years. The county, with partial reimbursement from Carnival, will commit to spending $195 million on a major makeover of Terminal F using $20 million earmarked for improvements at terminals D and E, also used by Carnival.

The agreement also commits the two parties to begin negotiations concerning the construction of a nearby 5,000-space parking garage, by far the largest at the port.

Image result for msc cruise terminal miami

The upgrade to Terminal F, which follows a $37 million upgrade in 2016 for current tenant MSC Cruises, will give Carnival a low-slung, glass-walled terminal facing Miami’s major automobile connection to Miami Beach, the six-lane Mac-Arthur Causeway, which averages 81,625 vehicle trips per day.

To take advantage of that exposure to the causeway, the expanded Terminal F will install a multimedia mesh on its north side that Carnival and the county can use to deliver electronic messages.

In keeping with its value-mindedness, Carnival is the only cruise company not building a PortMiami terminal from scratch.

Virgin Cruises, for example, won approval from the county for its new Terminal V at the far west end of the port, which will be built to remind visitors of a palm grove, according to the designers, Miami architecture firm Arquitectonica. 

The red and white Virgin terminal, budgeted at $179 million, would carry preferential berthing rights for 30 years.

MSC is also building from the ground up and is upping the ante by creating two terminals, also designed by Arquitectonica. Labelled terminals AA and AAA, they will open onto a 2,474-foot pier that enables simultaneous berthing of two megaships.

Related image

MSC Cruise new Evo Class of ship will call Miami home

“This design takes advantage of the length of the site to project a powerful shape and dimension like no other at the port,” Arquitectonica said. “The [parking] garage is thin, so it appears as a cloud over the glass spaces below.”

MSC Cruises USA will move its offices into the building from Fort Lauderdale, becoming the second cruise line headquartered at the port, after RCCL — which is finishing its new headquarters building, on the western end.

MSC’s terminals, to be finished by 2022, would join RCCL’s $247 million “Crown of Miami,” which opened in late 2018, and NCLH’s $239 million “Pearl of Miami,” which is set to open in November.

Plans for Disney’s Terminal K, on the port’s south side, were outlined in a 2018 memorandum of understanding, but details are on hold pending a dredging project to widen the channel on that side of the port.