The paint is barely dry on the Port of Galveston’s new Cruise Terminal 10, which debuted in November and is now home to Allure of the Seas — the largest class of cruise ship on the planet.
But the port, which has seen tremendous growth in recent years, is already looking toward the future. That includes the possibility of a fourth cruise terminal that could debut as early as 2025, according to port officials. And that expansion could include bringing another major cruise line — MSC — to the island.
While a fourth cruise terminal located at Piers 16-18 has always been in the long-term vision for the port, it was originally not planned until roughly a decade from now. A slide deck of the Port of Galveston’s strategic plan on its website shows an additional terminal in “Phase 3a,” with a proposed date of 2030-2040.
However, that looks to be changing. In a special board meeting held late last month, port officials laid out a potential change, moving forward the schedule by about five years.
An Accelerated Timeline For a New Terminal
Why the change?
For one, the cargo shipping tenant currently at the location is set to leave sooner than originally thought. That’s combined with what the port describes as “strong industry interest” in sailing from Galveston. In a presentation shared by Port Director Rodger Rees during the meeting, one slide said there are “only two majors [cruise lines] left, both want berths.”
When asked which cruise lines are those two majors, the names Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC were shared.
This interest in Galveston by the cruise industry isn’t new. As mentioned, Royal Caribbean just completed a brand-new dedicated terminal (see our guide here) and has brought their biggest class of ship to port. Carnival has plans to bring its newest ship — Jubilee — to the island when it is completed in 2023.
Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line just had its first call on the port in October, with plans to place its new ship Prima in Galveston late next year. And Princess will sail from Galveston for the first time ever starting this month.
Initial Talks With MSC Approved by the Port
So who would utilize a potential new terminal? The special session offered some clarity, but it’s important to know that nothing is definite just yet.
First, in a rendering of the long-term plan for the port, an MSC cruise ship is clearly shown docked at the Pier 16 complex:
And during the special meeting while discussing parking at the potential new terminal, one board member asked if a parking structure at the terminal is something that “we could work into the contract with Norwegian and MSC.”
Another mention was made of Norwegian Prima coming in December 2023 but having to sail on Friday instead of during the weekend due to other ships in port. According to Board Chairman Harry Maxwell, “that’s somebody that would fill up a new terminal.”
But the most clear-cut signal of who a main tenant could be came after the board returned from a closed executive session.
During that session, the Board of Trustees agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding between the port and MSC for the development of Cruise Terminal 16.
The board also made clear this is something that MSC requested, but it is a “non-binding agreement to negotiate” over an initial 90-day period to see if the two sides can come to terms. It was also mentioned that the agreement could include potential for other cruise lines to operate from the port.
In other words, a new terminal — and MSC coming to Galveston — is far from a sure thing. It is, however, an important first step.