In what is some of the brightest cruise news to come out of Galveston in nearly a year, Royal Caribbean International on Wednesday said it would commence construction of its $100 million Pier 10 cruise terminal in April, while also confirming its massive Allure of the Seas ship would sail from the terminal when it’s completed in 2022.
The announcement confirmed what Port of Galveston officials have insisted for the past year: Although the pandemic dealt a significant blow to cruise company revenues, Royal Caribbean was committed to building its new terminal in Galveston at Pier 10.
“It’s a huge shot in that it will not only benefit the port, but also labor, hoteliers and others,” said Albert Shannon, chairman of the Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees, which governs the port. “It’s going to be a great boost to the economy.”
The cruise terminal news was coupled with Royal Caribbean’s announcement about the Allure of the Seas, an Oasis-class cruise ship capable of carrying 6,780 passengers.
The Port of Galveston, a landlord to cruise lines and other companies on the public docks, announced the first agreement for a new cruise terminal in December 2019. The terminal makes three for the island, home to a thriving cruise industry before the coronavirus exploded into a worldwide pandemic. The terms of the agreement allowed Royal Caribbean to pull out of the deal by April 2020.
Just weeks before that deadline, the world changed. The spread of the virus in the United States sent the economy screeching to a halt, including the cruise industry. A mix of voluntary cancellations and state mandated no-sail orders have kept passenger vessels from sailing from Galveston and other U.S. ports since the middle of March last year.
As the pandemic worsened, port officials agreed to give the company another year to make a final decision on whether to go forward with the terminal. The port continued to conduct pre-construction work for the terminal, including moving customers to other port properties to make way for the development.
Still, the worldwide shutdown sowed seeds of doubt about whether Royal Caribbean would build the terminal.
Shannon credited Port Director Rodger Rees’ efforts in maintaining relationships with the company in the past 12 months.
“Patience, baby, patience,” Shannon said. “Keep the faith.”
As of Wednesday, there was no definite timeline for when cruises would again sail from U.S. ports. Carnival Cruise Lines has canceled all of its cruises through the end of May, while the earliest Royal Caribbean cruise remaining on the Port of Galveston’s schedule is set to sail May 21.
But returning to sailing requires the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing more guidance to cruise companies, officials said.