Galveston and Royal Caribbean Break Ground for New Cruise Terminal

Galveston builds cruise terminal for world's largest cruise ships
Galveston will add a third cruise terminal to handle the world's largest cruise ships (Port of Galveston)

Published Aug 20, 2021 4:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Galveston recently celebrated the groundbreaking for its third cruise terminal. First proposed in 2019, the new state-of-the-art terminal is projected to cost $125 million to build and when completed it will provide a terminal to handle the world’s largest cruise ships. 

The port signed a long-term contract with Royal Caribbean for the new facility in December 2019. Through the public-private partnership, Royal Caribbean will build the terminal, then lease it from the port for the initial term of 20 years with four 10-year options. Plans include bringing the 225,000 gross ton Allure of the Seas to the port starting in 2022. The cruise ship is nearly 50 percent larger than the cruise ships Royal Caribbean sails from the port, increasing passenger capacity to over 5,400 people or 40 percent larger than the current cruise ships based in Galveston. 

The new terminal will cover approximately 161,300 square feet on ten acres of land in the southeast section of the port known as Pier 10. The facility will incorporate state-of-the-art technology to enable mobile check-in and facial recognition to create an expedited arrival experience for guests. The terminal will be designed and developed sustainably to meet LEED certification standards.

Under the agreement, Galveston is undertaking improvements to the pier bulkhead and apron to accommodate the larger cruise ships. In addition, a staging and loading area, bus and taxi staging areas, and a 1,800-space parking lot will be constructed. The port will be responsible for items including maintenance, parking, and improvements to the dock. Royal Caribbean agreed to contribute to the cost of improving the docks.

“This new cruise terminal is a game-changer,” said Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves port director and CEO, emphasized the economic growth opportunities that this terminal brings to the region. “This much-anticipated project will bring 800 new jobs, $1.4 billion in local business services revenue, $5.6 million in state and local taxes, and incredible business development opportunities.”   

The pandemic delayed the construction of the terminal. It had originally been scheduled to begin in April 2020 for the terminal to open in the fall of 2021. It is now anticipated that the terminal will open in the fall of 2022, in time to mark Royal Caribbean’s twentieth anniversary of operations from Galveston.

The terminal is representative of the challenges that ports face as the cruise industry expands and seeks ways to handle larger passenger loads. To remain attractive to the cruise lines the ports are being challenged to come up with new means of expanding their facilities. In addition to the new terminal in Galveston, PortMiami is currently working with the cruise lines based at the port to develop new terminals. In addition, the terminals are evolving from functional spaces to highly designed buildings with unique signature attractions.