As if anyone needed a reminder about why getting our port in order is such a high priority, December’s cruise ship embarkations established a new high water mark for the number of passengers sailing from the island.
Officials reported 113,400 passengers left the Port of Galveston, leaving behind a wake of powerful economic impact. Furthermore, figures for 2016 point to 860,000 passengers passing through the terminals — many spending valuable retail, hotel, and other tourism dollars on the island as well; 2017 totals are not yet available.
Galveston cannot afford to fumble this opportunity.
Galveston got into the cruise business in 2000 and quickly evolved to the fourth busiest port in the nation. And to underscore the growing success of the port, Carnival Cruise Line’s newest and largest ship, Carnival Vista, will port in Galveston this coming September.
The ship will further elevate the choices for passengers as well as carry up to 244 more people per departure. The ship is luxurious, complete with an IMAX theater, a waterpark and a brewery aboard.
The port is currently home to three year-round Carnival Cruise Line ships, one year-round Royal Caribbean ship, one seasonal Royal Caribbean ship and a seasonal Disney Cruise Line ship.
This is a big business for the community, not the port alone. Officials anticipate about 55 percent of revenue budgeted for 2018 will be cruise-related. And with the Vista will come $5 million in port improvements to accommodate the new vessel.
We bring this up to once again underscore there is much work to be done with the port. As discussions continue about the need for investment in the port, in the same breath we hear our port portrayed as being in a financially challenged position. We hear of potential discourse from the shipping clientele about fog delays and rising fees. To too many, there appears to be a cloak and dagger element to the goings on and, frankly, it makes us nervous.
After decades of drift, the port has a solid and dependable economic opportunity at the terminal. And, to top it off, it is a clean economic element — one that visits and leaves dollars and footprints behind. Let’s bring the port’s business into the light of day and make sure we as a community are making the right decisions for our future.
• Leonard Woolsey