As the only cruise port in Texas, Galveston cruising has grown sharply during the past fifteen years. It is now the biggest departure port in the United States outside of Florida. Hundreds of cruises sail from the island each year, and three major lines offer trips — Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Disney Cruise Lines.
Despite the growth, one major cruise line is notably absent from the Texas coast. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), which had previously sailed from the Bayport Cruise Terminal near Houston, has yet to homeport in Galveston.
According to Andy Stuart, President and CEO of Norwegian, while there are no specific plans at the moment for a Texas-based ship in Galveston, he does think it will happen during the next several years:
“We don’t have specific plans for Texas today, but we have seven more ships coming to the brand between now and 2027, so I would anticipate Texas being in our plans during that generation of additions to the fleet,” said Stuart.
The comments came during a media panel hosted by Stuart aboard the Norwegian Joy Inaugural Cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia to Los Angeles. A question was raised during the panel about NCL having a greater presence in Texas by a staff member of Texas Lifestyle Magazine.
Norwegian Jewel previously sailed regular routes from the now defunct Bayport Cruise Terminal until 2016. Since that time, the cruise line hasn’t sailed from Texas — despite the state being home to roughly 30 million people. Meanwhile, Norwegian has increased its presence at nearby the Port of New Orleans, and Galveston has continued to grow as a cruise hotspot.
New Orleans recently welcomed the Norwegian Breakaway, a 145,000 gross-ton ship that can carry roughly 4,000 passengers. First sailing in 2013, the Breakaway is the largest cruise ship ever to sail from New Orleans.
The Port of Galveston has had its own success. It currently homeports the Carnival Vista, one of the largest and newest ships in Carnival’s fleet. The port is also in the works to build a third cruise terminal with Royal Caribbean, with the capability of hosting that line’s largest ships as well.
While there is no timetable for Norwegian Cruise Lines to call Galveston home, given the growth of the port and the CEO’s comments, we’d guess it might be sooner rather than later.