Galveston Enters Into 10 Year Agreement With Disney Cruise Line

Disney Wonder Sails Into Galveston

The Port of Galveston announced today that it has finalized a new agreement with Disney Cruise Line extending preferential berthing agreement rights at the Port for an additional 10 years with an option to renew for two additional five year periods effective November 1, 2018, according to a statement.

The new agreement outlines plans for a shared cruise terminal that will accommodate a ship equal to or larger than the Disney Magic and Wonder class of vessel.

Additionally, it is projected that over the first five years of the potential 20-year agreement, Disney will nearly double its sailings, the port said.

“September 22, 2012, marked the first time ever that a Disney Cruise Line ship set sail from the State of Texas with the maiden voyage of Disney Wonder. The Port has been seasonal homeport to both Disney Wonder and Disney Magic ever since. We are thrilled to be able to continue to give Texas and the southwest region of the United States the opportunity to experience Disney cruise vacations from their own backyard,” said Port of Galveston CEO/Port Director, Rodger Rees. “We are proud to be one of the few selected homeports for Disney Cruise Line.”

“Our guests have loved visiting Galveston and setting sail from this historic port to the western Caribbean, Key West and the Bahamas,” said Jeff Vahle, president of Disney Signature Experiences and Disney Cruise Line. “As we plan to expand our fleet and introduce new experiences and entertainment aboard our ships, we couldn’t be more excited to extend our commitment with the Port of Galveston.”

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Galveston Continues Expansion of Cruise Products

The Liberty of the Seas sails year-round from Galveston

For the Port of Galveston, the major news for 2018 is the continued expansion of cruise products and related services available, according to Interim Port Director Peter Simons.

Carnival Cruise Line is moving the Carnival Vista to Galveston later in the year replacing the Breeze. The Vista will sail alongside the Liberty and the Freedom.

“To accommodate the Vista we are in the process of doing some infrastructure upgrades in Cruise Terminal No. 1,” said Simons.

Last fall, the port also welcomed the Vision of the Seas, and Simons explained that while she was originally intended to be a seasonal product, she is replacing the Enchantment of the Seas on a year-round basis.

“We will have three Carnival and two Royal Caribbean ships year-round, and Disney seasonally from October to January,” he added.

The current scheduling has two ships in port on Saturdays, two on Sundays, one each on Mondays and Thursdays, and Disney on Fridays.

Terminal Expansion

“We have completed the expansion of Cruise Terminal No. 2, and when we did the design for that, we planned for larger ships and more passengers. Both of our terminals are able to handle bigger ships and more capacity,” he said.

“What we are doing though on the channel side is adding mooring structures to accommodate the longer Carnival Vista, and we are also finishing a mooring improvement project at Terminal No. 2 that will enable us to handle even larger ships in the future. We are upgrading the main mooring to be 200-ton bollards – the longer dock will also allow us easier access to the loading doors.

“We are also in the conceptual stage, looking at the designs and options for a third cruise terminal. There is definitely demand to sail from Galveston on weekends and we want to be able to accommodate what we see as future growth in that market.”

Simons said the port is talking to cruise lines about how to fund the new terminal. He said the port’s options were either bank financing or teaming up with a cruise line.

Meanwhile, he is also looking at how to provide the next generation of ships with LNG.

Team Effort

At press time, Galveston projected just short of 1.9 million passengers embarking and disembarking on some 258 sailings for 2017, up from 1.7 million passengers for 2016. For this year, the forecast is for 308 sailings and more than 2 million passengers, according to Simons.

“We see a lot of people coming down a couple of days early for special events, so there is a fair amount of extra local spending in connection with the cruise traffic. The vast majority of the passengers are drive-ups regionally and usually from the lower Midwest, but even as far north as Illinois and South Dakota. The fly-ins are typically from the West Coast.

“There is also a wide variety of things to do both on Galveston Island and in the vicinity that we are working with the cruise lines on for pre- and post-stays,” he added.

Simons, who joined the port in 2012 and was director of operations before being named interim port director, credited the port staff, the longshoremen and the stevedores for Galveston’s growing cruise traffic. He said it was a team effort with very attentive and hard-working people, making the cruise lines feel comfortable here and helping to grow their business.

The Newest Caribbean Cruise Port?

South Padre Island, TexasPHOTO: South Padre Island, Texas might be developed into a Caribbean cruise port. (photo via Flickr/Vince Smith)South Padre Island, Texas may be a cruise port in the near future.

The local city council recently approved a proposal for the destination to receive western Caribbean itinerary calls.

“South Padre Island has been a hidden U.S. jewel for many years,” said Mayor Dennis Stahl, in a press release. “We are looking forward to sharing our unique ecotourism sites, like Sea Turtle Inc., a renowned sea turtle rescue centre, and the Birding and Nature Center, a world-class birdwatching destination, in addition to our pristine beaches and adventure activities.”

SPI Cruise Group—a collaboration of cruise port design, maritime operations and marketing professionals—put forth the proposal. It comes at a time when western Caribbean sailings from the Port of Galveston, Texas are increasingly popular. Meanwhile, there is a concern of abundant tourism in eastern and southern Caribbean ports as cruise lines seek out sustainable alternative destinations.

The lines are specifically looking for those with existing tourism infrastructure, and South Padre Island is primed with adventures on land, sea and sky, including beautiful local beaches.

SPI Cruise Group is comprised of MarketScope Global, IDEA, Cruise and Port Advisors and NewmanPR. The project’s first step of marketing and communicating the plan to raise cruise industry executive awareness of South Padre Island is anticipated to take four months.

Beyond that, getting potential passengers interested to visit might be even easier as travellers love fresh destinations, especially in the Caribbean.

Tried-and-true ports are favourites for a reason, but anytime something new can be added to the equation it drums up excitement. In the case of the cruise lines, it may give them a bit of a competitive advantage to offer something entirely different as well.