MSC Cruises Confirms Galveston Home Port as Texas Continues Cruise Growth

Galveston cruise ships
Galveston in continuing to emerge as a leading cruise home port (Galveston)

Published Jan 12, 2024 6:11 PM by The Maritime Executive


Galveston’s emergence as one of the leading U.S. ports to host cruise ships is continuing with the confirmation that MSC Cruises will make the Texas port its fourth home port starting in 2025. The Texas port is growing rapidly becoming the base for some of the industry’s newest and largest ships.

MSC Cruises had been promising an announcement for months as part of its ongoing efforts to expand operations in the U.S. The company, which says it is the world’s third largest cruise operator, announced starting in November 2025 it will base its cruise ship MSC Seascape (169,400 gross tons) year-round in Galveston. The company plans to launch a new itinerary to Mexico and Honduras on the ship which was built by Fincantieri and entered service at the end of 2022. With a capacity for over 5,600 passengers and 1,600 crew, the ship along with a sister ship was at the time of her introduction the largest cruise ship ever built in Italy. 

The cruise line said it is committed to bringing its newest, largest, and most innovative cruise ships to the U.S. The selection of Galveston to become its next home port MSC said would expand access to the central and western parts of the U.S. as well as international passengers through Houston’s international airport.

Marking a significant milestone in its ongoing U.S. expansion, MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato commented, "This announcement is the latest step in our strategy to continue to grow our U.S. footprint. Earlier this year we began operations from our third U.S. home port, New York City, where we now sail year-round, and we are proud to add Galveston to that growing line-up alongside PortMiami and Port Canaveral.”

While the Aponte family acquired their first ship in 1970, the company only entered the cruise business in 1988 when it acquired Star Lauro, to help a fellow seafarer from Napoli, the Lauro family, who had fallen on hard times. Today, 35 years later, MSC operates 22 cruise ships with one more under construction and options for up to six more plus the launch of its new luxury sub-brand Explora Journeys which is building six smaller, yacht-inspired cruise ships.

The Port of Galveston has grown equally as fast in the cruise industry with Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO, saying that he expected the port would end 2023 with as many as 1.5 million cruise passengers, about 360 cruise sailings, and a 12 percent increase in operating revenues. Overall, cruises now generate about 60 percent of the port’s annual revenues.

The port recently completed a $50 million investment with Carnival Cruise Line for the renovation and upgrading of its third terminal to host Carnival’s new cruise ship the Carnival Jubilee. This followed the 2022 introduction of a new terminal for Royal Caribbean International which is also basing some of its largest ships in the port. Norwegian Cruise Line also homeported one of its new cruise ships in the port and Princess Cruises has now launched seasonal programs from the port. 

Galveston is pursuing the development of a proposed fourth cruise terminal to be located at a current cargo facility. The project to develop Cruise Terminal 16 and a parking garage represents a planned $141 million investment. It was previously reported the terminal would become the terminal for MSC Cruises.